Calcium hydroxide has historically been the gold standard material used for maintaining pulp vitality in cases where the pulp has been exposed.

Calcium hydroxide has historically been the gold standard material used for maintaining pulp vitality in cases where the pulp has been exposed.1 Calcium hydroxide pastes work by both releasing calcium ions to help with the formation of a dentinal bridge and inducing a superficial zone of necrosis that can be toxic to both cariogenic bacteria and pulpal tissue. However, calcium hydroxide has shown limited success in preserving pulp vitality and led to a negative reputation for vital pulp therapies.

In the 1990s, mineral trioxide aggregate (MTA) was introduced as a bioactive material that could be used for a host of different procedures, including repairing perforations, creating an apical barrier for teeth with open apices and maintaining vitality in pulpal exposures. MTA is a calcium silicate material that stimulates the formation of hard tissue when near the pulp. Studies have shown MTA can be successfully used to maintain pulp vitality, especially when compared to calcium hydroxide. Clinical trials comparing MTA with calcium hydroxide have shown failure rates of 19.7% for MTA, compared with a 31.5% failure rate with calcium hydroxide at two years.2

There are drawbacks of MTA such as the grey color of the material leading to unaesthetic restorations, its long setting time and the difficulty handling the material.3 As a result, other alternative bioactive materials, such as white MTA and bioceramics have been developed to accommodate for these shortcomings. Many of these newer bioactive materials have been as successful as MTA in protecting pulpal tissue and maintaining pulp vitality.4

To overcome the long setting time of MTA, resins have been added to some tricalcium silicate materials. Initial research showed these light-cured bioactive materials could help solve some of the issues associated with MTA. Early work on light-cured bioactive materials showed an increased amount of calcium released, decrease in solubility and easier handling of the material.5

However, the presence of resin in bioactive materials may have detrimental effects to pulpal tissue. Recently in vitro studies have shown that the resin components in light-cured bioactives can induce inflammatory responses when in contact with pulpal tissue, limiting their healing potential when used for vital pulp therapies.6

In this case study, tooth #19 had a large carious lesion and tested vital prior to caries excavation (Fig. 1).

Figure 1

Upon caries excavation, a pulp exposure occurred (Fig. 2).

Figure 2

Hemostasis was achieved, and a bioceramic material was placed over the pulp exposure (Fig. 3) and the final restoration of composite was placed (Fig. 4).

Figure 3
Figure 4

Andy Janiga, D.M.D., is a contributor to Spear Digest.


1 Alex, G. “Direct and indirect pulp capping: A brief history, innovations, and clinical case report.” Compendium. March 2018: 39 (3): 182-189

2 Hilton T.J. et al. “Comparison of CaOH with MTA for direct pulp capping: A PBRN randomized clinical trial.” J Dent Research 2013: 92 (suppl 1): 16s-22s

3 Parirokh, M., and Torabinejad, M. “Mineral trioxide aggregate: A comprehensive literature review-Part I: Chemical, physical, and antibacterial properties.” J Endod 2010: 36: 16-27

4 Asgary, S. et al. “Treatment outcomes of 4 vital pulp therapies in mature molars.” J Endod 2018: 44: 529-535

5 Gandolfi, M.G. et al. “Chemical-physical properties of TheraCal, a novel light-curable MTA-like material for pulp capping.” International Endodontic Journal 2012: 45: 571-579

6 Giraud, T., et al. “Tricalcium silicate capping materials modulate pulp healing and inflammatory activity in vitro.” J Endod 2018: 44: 1686-1691


Commenter's Profile Image Josh R.
June 6th, 2019
Great article, however there are some repeat paragraphs. Please review and keep up the good work!