The dental pulp contains connective tissue, blood vessels and nerves. Dental pulp infection is primarily caused by tooth decay (caries) or it can be secondary to other causes, such as trauma, cracks or excessive tooth wear.
Sometimes, there may be no symptoms at all. When the dental pulp inflammation or infection is left untreated, it can eventually cause severe pain, abscess (swelling) and loss of the supporting bone.
It is best to consult with your dentist if you have any of the symptoms mentioned for a more accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Regular check-ups with your dentist and practising good oral hygiene are the best modes of prevention. Decay or a defective filling can be detected and treated early before there is irreversible damage to the dental pulp.
Avoid chewing on hard objects such as ice, hard nuts or pens so as to prevent cracked teeth.
You should wear a mouth guard if you participate in contact sports to avoid dental trauma. Any activity involving speed has an increased chance of falling and the potential of getting in contact with a hard piece of equipment.
A mouth guard helps to distribute the force of impact in any accident to prevent the likelihood of dental injury to the front teeth.
Do not clench or grind your teeth. If you clench or grind your teeth at night, speak to your dentist about getting a night guard.
Other pathways for bacterial invasion into the tooth structure and infection of the underlying dental pulp are through:
Diagnosis of the dental pulp status of your tooth is done by your dentist using clinical examination and investigations. Some of these investigations include:
Treatment is determined by the diagnosis.
If the stage of dental pulp inflammation is assessed to be reversible, it can be resolved by eliminating the causative factors e.g. removing the decay and restoring or filling the tooth, sometimes with a medicament base, to return the dental pulp to its normal healthy state.
However, if the dental pulp is irreversibly damaged or infected, root canal treatment has to be carried out.
Root Canal Treatment
Root canal treatment (RCT) treats diseases and injuries to the dental pulp so as to conserve the tooth that will otherwise have to be extracted. The procedure is relatively comfortable and often painless as the tooth is anaesthetised during treatment.
The tooth should be restored to full shape and function by either a permanent filling or a crown, depending on how much of the tooth is left. This should be done as soon as possible as there could be a risk of tooth fracture due to biting forces.
RCT may be done in single or multiple visits depending on the tooth complexity.
In between treatment appointments, medicaments may be placed within the canals and the tooth is covered with a temporary filling. Often, X-rays are taken to determine the length of the root and to monitor the various treatment stages.
A root canal treated tooth can function normally and can be maintained with routine dental care and oral hygiene measures.
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