These procedures are used to try to save decayed teeth with inflamed or infected pulps. The difference is only in the amount of pulp to be removed: Partial removal is a pulpotomy, and full removal is a pulpectomy (root canal treatment). In adult teeth a pulpotomy is referred to as a partial root canal and is usually provided during an urgent care appointment to relieve pain.
The pulp of a tooth is made up of soft tissue containing blood vessels, nerves, and pink connective tissue. It extends from the crown (under the enamel and dentin layers) down to the bottom of the root. The pulp can’t heal by itself, so if pulp tissue becomes inflamed and/or infected, a pulpotomy to remove the diseased portion is done and medication is applied to keep the remaining pulp healthy. A permanent tooth can survive nicely without the pulp and nerve, because the tooth continues to be nourished by the tissues surrounding it.