The clinical study written by Dr Jenner Argueta.
From a completely optimistic point of view, the ultimate goal for every dentist performing a restorative and/or endodontic procedure should be to maintain the pulp vitality and functionality of the tooth without any discomfort for the patient. The pulp is needed to provide nutrition, innervation and immunocompetence, with these acting as a defence mechanism and alerting to the presence of any external aggression.
The pulp tissue may be exposed to the oral environment as a result of dental caries or by mechanical means when performing restorative or prosthetic procedures. Two possible treatment options in these types of cases are root canal therapy and tooth extraction; the former procedure is a good choice, whereas the latter should be avoided at all costs in order to maintain the patient’s oral health and natural function.
A third alternative is to use conservative vital pulp therapy procedures, which include direct pulp capping, indirect pulp capping where the pulp is not fully exposed, and partial or total pulpotomies. This way, it is possible to maintain the vitality of the tooth, the nociceptive function and the body’s self-defence system. Teeth with no root canal therapy can survive longer compared to those that have been treated endodontically.
The article presents two clinical cases in which the pulp tissue was exposed mechanically when carious tissue was removed. In both cases, it was managed to maintain the tissue vitality of the affected teeth by means of direct pulp capping.
The 24-year-old patient attended the dental clinic with transient provoked pain in tooth. The diagnosis was reversible pulpitis. The carious tissue was removed under complete isolation, producing two incidences of pulp exposure, with minimal bleeding. Bleeding was stopped by applying pressure for 10 seconds using a cotton swab dampened with a sterile saline solution. The cavity was disinfected with 2.5% sodium hypochlorite, and then MTA white mineral trioxide aggregate was placed as a direct pulp capping material.
To ensure that the MTA was placed accurately, the MAP System micro-applicator for dental materials was used. This system allows the clinician to place the material exactly on the exposure site, and this avoids staining the dentinal walls, which could over time show pigmentation due to the material used. Once the MTA was placed on the sites of pulp exposure and the deep parts of the pulp chamber roof, a light-curing calcium hydroxide paste was applied. This was used to protect the material and to be able to proceed to the bonding procedure, to put the final restoration of the tooth in place during the same session.
Seven days after the procedure, the patient was completely asymptomatic and the tooth responded normally to sensitivity tests. In clinical situations like this, it is expected that there will be radiographic evidence of mineralised tissue formation below the cap between six and nine months after the procedure.
The 35-year-old patient attended the dental clinic with transient provoked pain in tooth. The diagnosis was reversible pulpitis. The same vital pulp therapy protocol described in the first case was followed, except that in this case, the permanent restoration was not put in place during the same session. In its place, a temporary non-radiopaque restorative material was placed.
This made it possible to ascertain the suitable thickness of the pulp capping material and its precise positioning at perforation level, while keeping the dental margin clear for a good bonding protocol. It has been reported that the success rate of vital pulp therapy procedures may drop when the final restoration is put in place two days after the initial procedure.
The MAP System is very useful for precise and stable placement of the capping material in direct procedures, indirect procedures, and partial and total pulpotomies. Here, the final restoration was placed 15 days after the initial procedure and the patient was completely asymptomatic. Nine months later, full formation of calcified tissue could be seen at the level of the pulp capping, the tooth remained vital and the patient was completely asymptomatic
Obtaining the right diagnosis is key to the success of conservative pulp therapy. An ideal case is a diagnosis of reversible pulpitis with no previous history of spontaneous or prolonged dental pain. It is generally accepted that a history of spontaneous pain or pain at night is associated with the existence of an irreversible pulp inflammation process. In these cases, the success of direct pulp capping may be questionable, although there are studies indicating that vital pulp therapy can be successful even in these situations.
When it comes to the long-term success of conservative pulp procedures, it is extremely important to provide a final permanent restoration for the tooth that ensures a suitable marginal seal. The reason is that this last factor, in conjunction with the absence of bacterial contamination during the procedure, is among the most important factors to consider in order to avoid subsequent pulp inflammation. The success rate reported for vital pulp therapy procedures using MTA with a follow-up period of up to ten years is greater than 80% — a fairly high percentage for a dental procedure within that functional period.
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