Evaluating Tooth Pulp Vitality

Have you noticed a dull discoloration on one of your teeth? How about a numb feeling in a tooth? These symptoms can point to a dental problem called non-vital tooth pulp. You might also know this issue as a dead tooth.

Its name makes the issue seem drastic, but non-vital tooth pulp does not always point to a dental emergency. If you or your dentist suspect you have this problem, they will first need to evaluate the health of your tooth pulp. Read on to learn more about how tooth pulp vitality is tested by your dentist and how it impacts your oral health.

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What Is a Non-Vital Tooth?

Tooth pulp refers to the sensitive material at the center of a tooth. Pulp contains nerves, and if they become damaged, the tooth might no longer receive blood. The nerve will then die, hence the term dead tooth.

Non-vital tooth pulp may cause the tooth to grow darker or duller in color, and the lack of nerves might lead to a decreased sensation in the tooth. However, many people do not notice symptoms of non-vital tooth pulp either. A dentist can spot the issue on a routine x-ray of the teeth.

The non-vital pulp does not qualify as a dental emergency on its own, but it could put the tooth at a higher risk for infections. Therefore, a dentist will want to diagnose the problem so that they can know to monitor the tooth going forward.

How Will My Dentist Test Tooth Pulp Vitality?

You will likely need to schedule a separate appointment for the tooth vitality test to ensure your dentist has the equipment prepared to perform this evaluation. Many dentists employ thermal testing to check the vitality of the tooth pulp.

For this type of test, the dentist will apply a cold stimulus to the affected tooth as well as surrounding parts of the mouth as controlled variables. They will measure the speed and intensity of your reaction to this stimulus.

If you have a slower reaction or do not feel the cold as much on the tooth, then you might have non-vital tooth pulp. Your dentist can let you know the extent of nerve damage after this test. It will last only a few minutes.

Will I Need Further Dental Work for a Non-Vital Tooth?

As mentioned, some cases of non-vital tooth pulp will not require further dental work. The dentist will note your condition and monitor it during future dental exams.

However, if you feel pain or if the dentist notices an infection in the pulp, you will likely need dental intervention. The dentist may give you root canal therapy to remove damaged tooth pulp and relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

Some people might feel unhappy with discoloration in their smile caused by non-vital tooth pulp. In these cases, the patient can discuss cosmetic dental treatments with their dentist to make the tooth appear brighter. Schedule a consult with your dentist to learn more about this issue and how it affects your smile.