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What’s the Difference Between Reversible Pulpitis and Irreversible Pulpitis?

Pulpitis is the inflammation of the pulp inside of your teeth. Your teeth have soft tissue inside of them which contains the nerves and blood vessels. This soft tissue is called the pulp. When this pulp becomes inflamed or infected the condition is known as pulpitis. Pulpitis may be reversible or irreversible. Both conditions can be very painful and it is important that you seek dental treatment to determine the type and treatment for your pain.

Tooth Structure and Pain

Your teeth are covered with dentin covered by a layer of protective enamel. This hard enamel protects the inside soft tissue, the pulp, from damage and infection. If the outer layer of your teeth are damaged bacteria may get inside the tooth and cause an infection. An injury to the tooth may also cause pain and inflammation.

The reason inflammation causes pain in your teeth is because your body responds to injury and infection by sending more blood and defense cells to the area. This is fine in other parts of the body, but in your teeth this can cause pressure and pain. When our pulp is inflamed and your body is trying to fight the cause, the pressure can cause mild to severe pain.

Reversible Pulpitis

As the name implies, reversible pulpitis is reversible. It can be cured once the underlying cause of the pain is taken away. Reversible pulpitis usually causes mild pain. You may experience pain from eating very cold foods, drinking cold beverages, breathing in cold air, or chewing.

Some causes of reversible pulpitis include a cavity that hasn’t reached the tooth nerve, erosion of the enamel of your teeth, drilling done by your dentist when preparing your tooth for a crown or filling, a fracture of the enamel layer of the tooth, or having your teeth roots scraped during a cleaning.

Treatment of reversible pulpitis may include brushing and flossing with a restoring mouthwash which helps to re-mineralize a cavity. The main treatment for reversible pulpitis is to identify the reason for the inflammation and remove it.

Irreversible Pulpitis

Irreversible pulpitis is a severe inflammation of the pulp of your tooth. Irreversible may occur after reversible pulpitis if the cause of the inflammation is not removed. Causes of irreversible pulpitis may include the following:

  • Your dentist getting too close to the pulp when they are removing dentin from your teeth to treat a cavity.
  • When the blood flow to the pulp is increased or decreased caused by orthodontic treatment or trauma.
  • Very deep vertical cavities which run through the enamel into the pulp can be a pathway for bacteria.

Symptoms of irreversible pulpitis range from severe pain to no symptoms at all. You may experience pain from small temperature changes, including breathing in room temperature air. Pain also lingers. If you each something very cold and you have pain, and it lingers for more than 10 seconds it may be a symptom.

The only treatments for this type of pulpitis is a root canal or removal of the tooth. A root canal relives the pain because your dentist removes the inflamed pulp and fills your tooth with a rubber material known as gutta-percha. This relieves the pressure and pain. If your tooth is badly damaged, removal may be the only option.

Reversible and Irreversible pulpitis can be very painful. If you are experiencing tooth pain, call or contact our office. Dr. Taylor and her staff put your oral health as their top priorities and look forward to serving you.