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Pulpitis is a condition where the dental pulp becomes inflamed. The dental pulp is right at the center of a tooth and is covered by dentin, which is protected by tooth enamel, the tough outer coating of a tooth. A dental pulp consists of nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels, and it can become inflamed if the pulp is infected or damaged. Often, a dental pulp is inflamed due to severe tooth decay.

Your tooth can become decayed if the tooth enamel becomes worn or eroded or chipped or cracked. Any opening in the tooth enamel allows infection-causing bacteria to enter the tooth. Dentin is much softer than tooth enamel, so it is more quickly eroded, and before long, these harmful bacteria will reach the dental pulp, causing infection and inflammation.

What Causes Pulpitis?

Pulpitis can be caused when a tooth is injured, resulting in the dental pulp becoming inflamed. Possible reasons include a cracked tooth, as a fracture can expose the dental pulp. You can get a cracked tooth by biting down on something hard, chewing on ice cubes or grinding your teeth, or if you take a blow to the mouth. Pulpitis can also develop if you have older dental restorations that are weakening and beginning to fail, potentially exposing the tooth dentin and the dental pulp.

Pulpitis can develop after dental work, and usually, this is reversible. Other possible causes include untreated cavities or advanced gum disease, a serious bacterial infection.

There are two different types of pulpitis:

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What are the Signs of Pulpitis?

The main sign of pulpitis is pain. The pain can be intense and throbbing, or the tooth may have a dull ache. If the pulpitis is reversible other symptoms might include:

The symptoms of irreversible pulpitis are different and can include:

When pulpitis is irreversible, the inflammation can cause the pulp and the tooth nerve to die. Consequently, the pain might stop, but your tooth could still hurt when you tap it, and there is a risk that the tooth can become infected and develop a dental abscess. Once an abscess develops, it causes severe infection and inflammation, pushing the tooth slightly out of its socket. As you bite down on the affected tooth, it could feel higher.

What is the Treatment for Pulpitis?

Pulpitis treatment depends on whether the condition is reversible or irreversible.

Reversible Pulpitis

Usually, reversible pulpitis is treatable by addressing the underlying problem. For example, filling the tooth can solve the problem if you have tooth decay. If the issue is due to dental work, repairing or replacing the restoration can eliminate the inflammation.

Irreversible Pulpitis

If the inflammation has caused extensive damage to the dental pulp, you will need root canal therapy. Root canal therapy is a procedure that removes the dental pulp in the crown of your tooth and cleans out the root canals extending into your tooth roots. Afterward, the empty pulp chamber is cleaned thoroughly and disinfected before being permanently filled. Usually, you will need a dental crown to protect the tooth afterward. If the damage to the tooth is worse, for example, if you have a dental abscess, we may need to remove your tooth as this will allow the infection to drain.

Sometimes medication is needed to treat pulpitis. For example, over-the-counter painkillers can relieve discomfort. Usually, antibiotics aren’t necessary unless we think an infection is present, as pulpitis isn’t always due to bacteria.

If you experience any form of tooth pain or discomfort, please contact South Nassau Dental Arts. People often believe that they can ignore the problem and it will clear up on its own, but tooth pain is a sign that something is wrong. When we can promptly treat a tooth, there is a far greater chance we can save it, and emergency dental care will quickly relieve that painful toothache.