Pulpitis is a dental condition which occurs when the pulp, the innermost part of the tooth that contains the nerves and blood supply, becomes inflamed. The most common cause for pulpitis is tooth decay, and because nearly 50% of the world’s population has some form of decay, it is considered a global oral health issue. When the condition is caught early while inflammation is mild, the tooth can often be saved. If left untreated for too long, severe inflammation can actually cause the pulp to die, resulting in extreme pain and tooth loss. Worse yet, pulpitis may lead to infection, causing a pus pocket, or an abscess, to develop at the root of the tooth. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the jaw or other areas of the body, like the brain or sinuses.
Obviously, the earlier pulpitis is detected, the better. The most common symptom is tooth pain, and when an abscess is present, the tooth can become extremely sensitive to pressure. Once diagnosed, your dentist will determine if the pulp is healthy enough to save, assessing the level of pain with hot, sweet, or cold stimuli, and/or using an electric pulp tester, which can indicate if the pulp is still alive. X-rays are often performed to get a better idea of how far the inflammation has extended. Typically, the inflammation ceases when the cause is treated. If the pulp is found to be worth saving, your dentist will first remove any decay and then restore the tooth with a filling. But when the pulp is damaged beyond repair, traditionally it must be removed via root canal treatment or tooth removal. If pain still persists, additional root canal treatments are often necessary, making the process of pulpitis often aggressive, costly, painful and some even say, outdated. But thanks to modern technology, scientists have developed a new, less invasive treatment, according to a recent Dental Tribune article.
Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry have developed a technique that uses nanoparticles to deliver therapeutic agents to pulp in a way that they believe could change the way dentists treat pulpal disease. In brief, medication is attached to nanoparticles made of magnetic substances, such as iron, and directed through the dental tubules using strong magnetic fields. Preliminary tests on extracted human teeth showed that the system could deliver enough medication to be effective to both maxillary and mandibular teeth in approximately 30 minutes. Researchers believe that in addition to pulpitis, this new technique could be used to treat other conditions, such as hypersensitivity and abscesses, with the ability to deliver steroids, antibiotics, and local anesthetics to the pulp. Dental technology is ever evolving, making treatment of some of the world’s most common health conditions more accessible, effective, and pain-free. While more research is needed to bring this technology to the masses, every day brings us closer to this, and other, new and exciting dental developments.