Therapeutic strategies focussed on the pulp preservation, are important when managing vital teeth with deep caries and an exposed pulp. These vital pulp treatments (VPTs); however, are not new, with indirect and direct pulp capping procedures being described as a therapy for carious teeth for over a century. As a result of unpredictable outcomes, the traditional indications for VPT particularly when the pulp was exposed were limited to the treatment of immature teeth with incomplete root formation. Over the last 20 years, the advent of regenerative endodontics and the promotion of biologically based therapies aimed at reducing intervention have reinvigorated VPT with new waves of basic science and clinical research indicating a role for VPT not only in mature cariously affected teeth, but also in teeth with signs and symptoms indicative of irreversible pulpitis. Driven by new materials such as hydraulic calcium silicate cements, a better understanding of pulpal immunity and biology as well and improved tissue handling, VPT has been at the forefront of treatment recommendations made by global Cariology and Endodontic organizations. Care must be exercised, however, as key gaps in scientific knowledge remain alongside
severe limitations in educational dissemination amongst dentists. Although research has highlighted that carious injury to the dentine–pulp complex stimulates a wide range of responses and that the interaction between infection, inflammation and repair will eventually impact on the outcome of pulpitis, our ability to accurately and objectively diagnose the true inflammatory state of the pulp remains poor. An overreliance on symptoms leaves clinicians with subjective, crude diagnostic tools by which to inform treatment planning and decision-making, which results in large variations in the treatments offered to patients. Not only is there an urgent need to develop preoperative and intraoperative diagnostic tools, but there is also a paucity of the high-quality comparative evidence required to answer the most important questions and justify treatment options. The aim of this review was to consider the current status of VPT and to discuss the principle problems that are hindering clinical acceptance of these techniques. Potential solutions and opportunities are offered to suggest ways that VPT may become a more consistently prescribed evidenced-based treatment in dental practice.