The pulp is made up of blood vessels and nerves and is located within the centre of the tooth, underneath the dentine and enamel. If these outer layers are damaged in some way, the pulp will be left exposed. This exposure can result in inflammation, which is known as pulpitis. Read on to learn more about this condition.
What causes pulpitis?
As mentioned above, pulpitis can develop if the enamel or the dentine of a tooth are damaged. This damage can be caused by trauma (i.e., if a person sustains a blow to the mouth), a cracked filling, gum disease or tooth decay.
What are the symptoms of pulpitis?
Pulpitis always causes pain. However, the nature of this pain will vary, depending on what stage the condition is at.
If the pulpitis is still reversible (that is, the pulp has not been completely destroyed yet), the sufferer will usually experience a sharp pain when they consume anything that is extremely sweet or cold. This pain will then subside almost immediately after they are finished consuming the food or drink that triggered the irritation.
In cases of irreversible pulpitis (where the pulp has been damaged beyond repair), the pain a person experiences after consumption of very cold or sweet food or drink will linger for several minutes after they are finished eating or drinking.
How is pulpitis diagnosed and treated?
If a patient at a dental clinic is suffering from the above-mentioned symptoms, their dentist will carry out a full visual examination of their teeth. They may then use stimuli to test the sensitivity of the pulp; this can involve the application of heat or ice packs to the affected area of the mouth. Some dentists will also use a special electrical pulp testing tool to check if the pulp has become necrotic (i.e. if it has died). Lastly, they may use X-rays, to determine the extent of the inflammation.
In cases where the pulpitis is reversible, the dentist will remove any decay in and around the tooth which may be irritating the pulp and if necessary, insert a filling. The removal of the irritant will enable the pulp to heal and thus allow the entire tooth to be saved.
If the pulpitis is irreversible, the dentist may perform root canal therapy. This involves the complete removal of the inflamed pulp. After the pulp has been taken out, the dentist will then give the tooth a thoroughly cleaning, before disinfecting it. Following this, the hollow created by the absence of the pulp will be filled and the tooth will be sealed with a material known as a gutta percha. A crown may then be placed on top to protect what is left of the tooth. Additionally, if the tooth is severely infected, the dentist may also prescribe antibiotics.