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Pulpitis is when the innermost part of a tooth, called the dental pulp, is inflamed. If caught early enough, pulpitis can sometimes be reversed. Otherwise, the inflammation will continue and worsen. You may need root canal therapy or risk losing the tooth.

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What Is Pulpitis?

Pulpitis TreatmentThe dental pulp is the innermost part of your tooth, containing nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. It is essential when a tooth develops, but an adult tooth can survive without a dental pulp. Pulpitis usually occurs because of an irritation or infection.

Bacteria in your mouth can enter the tooth through a crack or cavity, penetrating the dentin surrounding the pulp and eventually causing infection. Inflammation develops as your body tries to fight the infection.

There are two types of pulpitis which are:

  • Reversible Pulpitis: Pulpitis is reversible if caught at an early stage. We can repair the tooth and seal it permanently with a filling.
  • Irreversible Pulpitis: If the pulp is severely inflamed, it will eventually die, a dental condition called pulp necrosis. At this stage, it may be impossible to save the tooth, and we might need to extract it.

What Are the Signs of Pulpitis?

The main signs of an inflamed dental pulp is toothache or noticing the tooth has become more sensitive. The degree of pain will depend on the extent of the inflammation.

When you visit our NJ dental office, we can test the tooth to see if you have reversible or irreversible pulpitis.

Signs of Reversible Pulpitis

If you have reversible pulpitis:

  • The tooth will not feel painful when we carefully tap it.
  • It won’t be sensitive to heat, and any sensitivity to sweet or cold foods will dissipate quickly.
  • Tooth sensitivity can feel like a sharp pain.

Signs of Irreversible Pulpitis

If your pulpitis is irreversible:

  • Your tooth may feel painful when tapped.
  • The tooth will feel sensitive to heat or when exposed to cold or sweet foods, and the sensitivity will last longer.
  • Tooth sensitivity can feel like a sharp or throbbing and aching pain.

When pulp necrosis is present, the tooth nerve dies. Therefore, you may feel no sensitivity to anything hot, cold, or sweet. However, your tooth will probably hurt when we tap it.

What Causes Pulpitis?

Your tooth is protected by hard enamel, but if it is damaged, it can result in pulpitis. Damage to a tooth can occur due to:

  • Tooth decay.
  • Cracks in teeth.
  • Dental procedures, for example, if a tooth isn’t sealed properly after a dental filling.
  • Worn tooth enamel, for example if you clench and grind or brush your teeth too aggressively.

How Is Pulpitis Diagnosed?

Diagnosing pulpitis is very straightforward.

  1. Our periodontist will test the reaction of your tooth by placing a hot or cold substance on it. The diagnosis is based on the length of time the sensitivity lasts.
  2. Gently tapping on a tooth can tell us if you have irreversible pulpitis.
  3. Dental x-rays allow us to see if there are signs of infection or damage to the tooth.

How Is Pulpitis Treated?

If you have reversible pulpitis, then treatment may be very straightforward. Usually, it is a question of removing any signs of tooth decay and ensuring the tooth is properly sealed with an ordinary dental filling.

Irreversible pulpitis requires more extensive treatment as the pulp tissue must be removed. Options include:

  • Root Canal Therapy: the inflamed pulp is removed, and your tooth is disinfected before it is permanently sealed. The tooth is restored with a dental crown.
  • Tooth Extraction: Removing the tooth is another option, although we will not recommend this if we think the tooth can be saved with root canal therapy.

If the dental pulp is infected, we might prescribe antibiotics to prevent the infection from worsening, especially if you can’t receive treatment immediately. However, antibiotics are not a treatment for pulpitis.

Can I Prevent Pulpitis?

The best way to prevent this condition is by practicing good oral hygiene.

  • Ensure you brush your teeth at least twice daily and floss every day.
  • If you clench and grind, ask us for a custom-made night splint to protect your teeth.
  • Visit us regularly for routine checkups and cleanings.

In its early stages, pulpitis is very treatable. However, without professional dental care, it can worsen and result in an infection. We strongly recommend that our patients contact us for professional advice if a tooth feels uncomfortable, sensitive, or painful. Prompt treatment can make all the difference between restoring the tooth easily and needing more complex care like root canal therapy or, in the worst case, tooth removal.

Page Updated on May 23, 2024 by Dr. Victoria Kushensky, DDS (Dentist) of My New Jersey Dentist
Victoria Kushensky D.D.S

My name is Victoria Kushensky. I am a general dentist dedicated to remaining at the forefront of my field. Combining compassionate care with extensive knowledge, I offer cosmetic and general dentistry services as well as advanced root canal treatments.

I earned my Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the esteemed New York University College of Dentistry. Throughout my career, I have honed my skills in various dental procedures, ensuring effective treatment for each patient’s unique needs. I prioritize patient comfort and understanding, taking the time to thoroughly explain procedures and address any questions.

More about Dr. Kushensky

My NJ Dentist: Victoria Kushensky, DDS
385 Prospect Ave Suite 304
Hackensack, NJ 07601
(201) 298-8000