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You know that cavities are detrimental to your oral health. But are you aware of the extent? A deep cavity left untreated can sustain damage all the way through the tooth and into the pulp - the center of the tooth that contains its nerves and blood vessels. If the pulp of your teeth is damaged, you can expect serious dental issues - including tooth loss - to result.

Tooth Pulp Damage

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Types of Pulp Damage

Reversible pulpitis is a mild inflammation, but could lead to an abscess (pocket of pus and bacteria). If you're experiencing sudden pain when eating or drinking a particularly hot, cold, or sweet item, consider the possibility of this mild pulp damage and act accordingly. Your dentist may be able to stave off poor effects by identifying a cavity and filling  the tooth.

Irreversible pulpitis is much more severe and cannot be thoroughly remedied, but can be treated well with root canal therapy. Here, the dentist will enter the tooth root and clean it thoroughly. Ultimately, the tooth may need to be extracted, but avoiding treatment of irreversible pulpitis can lead to serious problems with gum tissue.

Calcification, or stones Here, the pulp tissue calcifies, or hardens, leading to extreme sensitivity and pain as the tooth's nerves are compressed. Again, your dentist will likely seek to treat this with root canal therapy to clear the calcified pulp tissue.

Dental pulp exposure If a tooth is damaged or broken - by a cavity or fracture, for example - the pulp is no longer covered. It is now exposed to bacteria and debris in the mouth, such as food particles. Not to mention, of course, the sensitive nerves in the pulp are now exposed to agitation and pain. Before long, infection and abscess can develop. This can sometimes be treated by a filling, but root canal therapy may be the answer here as well, assuming the tooth does not need to be removed.

How can root canal therapy help?

To avoid a spreading infection, root canal therapy can help tremendously. Your dentist will enter the tooth and remove the problematic pulp tissue, rather than the tooth itself. This is often performed over several visits with your dentist or endodontist, culminating with a crown to serve as the tooth's new covering.

While some pulp issue are caused by sudden injury, many come from poor oral care. Those who do not brush and floss regularly - in addition to regular dental cleanings and checkups - are at greater risk for the deep cavities that can result in pulp damage. Taking a common-sense approach to dental care is the best way to ward off the painful and costly effects of unchecked pulp damage.

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