What is pulpitis?
Pulpitis is the condition in which the innermost layer of the tooth, the pulp, gets infected. Infection does not occur inside the pulp in the first place. It only penetrates the surface to reach there when it has been left untreated there for too long. It is a serious condition and must not be neglected.
Pulpitis can be reversible or irreversible. Reversible pulpitis can be treated easily, in which the infection has not infected the pulp by much. However, irreversible pulpitis indicates a severe infection inside the pulp of a tooth, and the treatment for this is much more complex.
Symptoms of pulpitis
To know if you have pulpitis, look for the following symptoms:
- Mild to severe toothache: You’re likely to experience mild pain in one particular tooth consistently. It just comes and goes. This kind of pain is usually throbbing and indicates reversible pulpitis. However, in the case of irreversible pulpitis, you may experience a toothache so severe that it can keep you up at night.
- Swollen lymph nodes: Lymph nodes release lymphatic fluids that are a part of our body’s immunity system. These lymphatic fluids fight off bacteria and other germs from the body to prevent infection. Understandably, when you have a bacterial infection within the pulp of your tooth, the lymph nodes become hyperactive, thereby swelling up.
- Heightened sensitivity: The pulp in your tooth contains a network of sensory nerves that transfer signals from the tooth to the brain. When the pulp is infected, these sensory nerves become damaged and are thus more susceptible to any form of sensitivity. You’d notice that one of your teeth is more painful or sensitive than the rest when it’s touched or when it comes in contact with something hot, cold or even sweet.
- Fever: You may experience mild to high fever. To kill off the germs in your body, the immunity system tends to raise the body temperature. Thus, when you have a severe infection, you are likely to experience mild fever in the case of reversible pulpitis, or even high fever if you have irreversible pulpitis.
- A slightly discolored tooth: This is usually rare but in some instances, victims of pulpitis may notice a slightly discolored tooth. This is caused by the infection within the tooth.
Irreversible pulpitis could be very hard to diagnose, and thus, often goes untreated that leads to further complications. Therefore, if you do have any of the symptoms listed above, consult a dentist right away.
Treatment for pulpitis
Treatment for reversible pulpitis does not require a very complex treatment. This is because oftentimes, the infection does not even reach the pulp properly in reversible pulpitis. Only the infection from around the pulp is removed and the patient is healed.
However, for irreversible pulpitis, the main treatment is called a root canal treatment. It involves drilling a hole down your tooth and taking out the infected tissues. Then the inside of the tooth is thoroughly washed up, before getting sealed and filled. Read more about Root Canals: Treatment, Symptoms and More.
In a nutshell
Pulpitis simply refers to the infection of the innermost layer of the tooth. It could be mild (reversible) or severe (irreversible). The symptoms include toothaches, swollen lymph nodes, increased sensitivity, fever and in some instances, a discolored tooth. While reversible pulpitis could be treated easily, irreversible pulpitis requires a root canal treatment, in which a hole is drilled down the tooth to wash the infection away.
Let the treatment for pulpitis not scare you away. You’d be given general or local anesthesia to help you relax during the procedure. So, if you do suspect pulpitis, visit your nearest endodontist right away. To prevent pulpitis, do ensure to maintain good oral hygiene. Also, take proper care of your oral health, and visit the dentist regularly.
In this context, Dr. Dona Pleis says:
“Scheduling regular visits with your dentist can help them identify any areas of decay while the decay is small and nowhere near the pulp. If you grind your teeth, you may want to consider wearing a mouth guard while you sleep. Even with proper prevention methods, tooth pain or sensitivity may happen. Bring it to the attention of your dentist as soon as possible. Caught early, a simple treatment may keep your pulpitis a reversible condition, rather than an irreversible one.”