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Quick Facts

Pulpitis

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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The hard outer surface on your teeth is called the enamel. The pulp is a softer layer deep inside the tooth. The pulp contains the tooth's blood vessels and nerves.

What is pulpitis?

Pulpitis is painful inflammation (swelling) of your tooth pulp.

  • Pulpitis is usually caused by tooth decay

  • Injury to your tooth can also cause pulpitis

  • If treated, mild pulpitis usually gets better with no problems

  • Pulpitis can lead to infection that can spread to your jaw or other parts of your body

  • Dentists treat severe pulpitis by doing a root canal or taking out the tooth

Tooth

Tooth

What causes pulpitis?

What are the symptoms of pulpitis?

Pulpitis causes:

  • Toothache with pain that can be mild and come and go, or be severe and there all the time

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food

  • Sensitivity to pressure on the tooth from chewing

  • Sometimes pain that you feel in your jaw, ear, or head

Pulpitis that involves infection by bacteria usually causes constant pain. The bacteria may form a collection of pus called an abscess Dental Abscess An abscess is a collection of pus. Pus is a mix of white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria. It builds up wherever your body is fighting an infection. A dental abscess is an abscess that... read more . Sometimes the infection can spread to other parts of your body. If you have an abscess, the tooth is very painful and is sensitive to pressure or tapping with a dental tool.

How can dentists tell if I have pulpitis?

Dentists will check your tooth's pulp by:

  • Testing to see if your tooth is sensitive to hot, sweet, or cold things

  • Using an electric pulp tester to see if the pulp is alive

  • Tapping on your tooth to see if the nearby tissue hurts

  • Doing x-rays to see how far the problem has spread

How do dentists treat pulpitis?

For mild pulpitis, dentists will take out any decay and fill the cavities. Sometimes dentists use a temporary filling with pain medicine in it for 6 to 8 weeks before putting in a permanent one.

If the pulp is badly damaged and can't be healed, dentists will give you pain medicine and either:

  • Do a root canal to remove the pulp from your tooth and then fill and seal the tooth canal

  • Take out the tooth if it can't be saved

If you have an infection, they'll also give you antibiotics.

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