Most people end up in the dentist’s chair because they’re experiencing oral pain. Dental assistant schools teach students to remind patients of how important regular check-ups are, but whether it’s due to fear or just plain negligence, many of us end up waiting until something’s wrong to schedule an appointment.
But what many patients don’t know is that dental problems left untended spread quite quickly. Cavities get larger, steadily eating away through the tooth to the soft tissue inside known as pulp. Oftentimes, the pain that keeps us up at night is caused by inflamed pulp – and there’s an entire branch of dentistry dedicated to identifying, diagnosing, treating and preventing diseases of the tooth pulp. It’s called endodontics – a discipline central to any effective dental assistant program or intra oral dental training.
What is Dental Pulp?
Pulp originates in the center of the tooth, underneath the enamel layer and dentin layer, in the pulp chamber. It contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and large nerves. When people refer to the tooth “nerve,” what they’re talking about is the pulp. Pulp branches out continue down each root of the tooth and stop just shy of its apex or tip. The tooth pulp is particularly vulnerable to bacteria and inflammation. When infections take hold, pulpitis sets in – and dental intervention is essential.
Signs of Pulpitis
Dental assistant training prepares students with the knowledge of endodontics required to spot signs of pulpitis right away. Intra oral assistants will examine to look for typical causes, such as exposed dentin, a deep or defective restoration, or evidence of trauma. In cases of reversible pulpitis, pain is always the first indicator. Also, there is often a sharp, supersensitivity to cold that subsides when the cold object is removed. Overall, the pain presents itself when provoked but is controllable with medication – and abates when the irritant (this could include chewing on food, a cold beverage, brushing, or dental examination) is removed. In the case of irreversible pulpitis, the pain is more enduring, can begin spontaneously and lasts even when the irritant is taken away. This throbbing persistent pain can be relieved by cold water, but always returns.
In the case of reversible pulpitis, the dentist may need to repair a defective restoration or fill a cavity – the most common causes of this condition. However, if the infection has reached an irreversible stage, the root canal is the typical treatment. This involves performing a pulpectomy: removing the pulp entirely from the tooth. Without its living inner tissue the tooth is considered “dead,” and although it can remain in the mouth, it may need special care in the future.
Have you ever suffered a case of irreversible pulpitis?