Pulp material inside the root canal carries a collection of nerve and tissue cells throughout the tooth, and the pulp is kept protected by the surrounding dentin layer of tooth. But trauma or cavities can compromise the dentin and risk exposing the pulp. Exposed pulp can become infected and inflamed in a condition called pulpitis. Left untreated, the pulpitis can become irreversible and cause pulp necrosis. The necrotic pulp can threaten the life of the tooth and require a dental extraction.
There are a couple of ways your dentist can protect your pulp from irreversible pulpitis. The chosen treatment will depend on the nature of the dentin damage and whether or not the pulp has already become exposed or damaged.
Pulp capping is a technique used when the dentist needs to cut into the dentin in order to remove a deep cavity. The capping is performed to ensure that the pulp doesn't become exposed and vulnerable during the cavity removal.
There are two different types of pulp capping: direct and indirect. Direct pulp capping involves the dentist applying an antibacterial film over the exposed pulp and then covering the film with a dental crown for further protection. The direct route is only an option if the dentin immediately over the pulp was healthy and the pulp itself has shown no signs of damage.
Indirect pulp capping is an option when the surrounding dentin was weakened by infection but doesn't have a thriving infection. Instead of removing all of the infected dentin with the cavity, the dentist will leave a small amount of that dentin in place to cover the pulp. A remineralization agent is applied to the dentin and then a temporary crown is placed over the dentin.
The dentist will check the indirect pulp cap in a matter of months to make sure the dentin hardened. A permanent dental crown can then be placed over the dentin. A direct pulp cap also requires monitoring for a period to ensure that the film is holding.
Root Canal Therapy
Pulp that has already been damaged needs to be removed before the rest of the pulp and the root canal can be protected from irreversible pulpitis. Root canal therapy can remove the affected pulp and protect the incoming pulp from further damage.
The dentist will open the dentin, if there's not already a cavity opening, and use a narrow tool to scrape out the affected pulp. The dentist will then rinse the canal with an antibiotic solution then insert an expanding bio-material that will eventually be absorbed into the tooth. The absorbing material will then make room for new pulp to rise up into the upper chamber.
Root canal procedures are finished off with a dental crown. The crown both covers the entry area and adds another layer of protection for the pulp and remaining dentin.
If you have pulpitis or are having tooth problems and sensitivity, talk with a dentist, such as those at Health Centered Dentistry, about the treatment options.