Do teeth have nerves?

November 20, 2021

Do teeth have nerves?
Tooth anatomy, tooth nerve, pulp chamber and root canals
Tooth nerves and anatomy

Yes, teeth do have nerves. Are they important to the vitality and functionality of your teeth? Here is all the information you need to know:


Basic anatomy of teeth

Teeth are composed of four main tissues. The enamel, dentin, and cementum are all hard tissues surrounding the softer core. The fourth, non-calcified tissue is often called the pulp. This is the soft, innermost tissue of the tooth that contains the blood vessels, connective tissues, and nerves that help keep the tooth vital and provide sensation.


What is the function of a tooth nerve?

A tooth nerve is not vitally important to the health and function of teeth and the presence or absence of a nerve does not really impact the day-to-day function of teeth. Once the teeth have emerged through the gums, the main function of the nerve is sensory—providing the sensation of pressure to control the amount of force when chewing, as well as causing the sensation of hot and cold.


What causes tooth nerve pain?

There are a few factors that can contribute to tooth nerve pain. Dentinal sensitivity is more widespread nerve pain often caused by eroded or damaged enamel. This allows external stimuli like cold, heat, or acid to reach the nerve endings within the dentin layer of teeth causing sensitivity. Factors that can increase the risk of dentinal sensitivity include brushing teeth too hard, teeth whitening products, receding gums, and untreated cavities.


Another cause of tooth nerve damage can stem from an injury. This is most common in sports athletes. A crack in the crown or a fractured root can expose the nerve and cause severe pain.


Lastly, another cause for tooth nerve pain is when a tooth has deep decay. This is perhaps the most common. The bacteria can enter the pulp and cause an infection inside the tooth often resulting in sensitivity, pain, and swelling. The infection can eventually lead to an abscess, or a pocket of puss, in the root of the tooth. From there, the infection can spread to other areas of the body if left untreated. And if the infection becomes severe enough, the inflammation and pressure will cut off the blood supply causing the tooth to die. And it is not possible to bring a dead tooth back to a normal, healthy condition.


Can a tooth nerve heal itself?

In some cases yes, a tooth nerve can heal itself. That said, it is pretty rare and self-healing only happens in certain circumstances with lesser degrees of damage.


Does tooth nerve pain go away?

Most tooth nerve pain is treatable with prompt and proper dental care. Unfortunately, once a patient experiences extreme tooth pain with hot and cold foods and beverages, or spontaneous pain, it is likely the damage is irreversible without treatment. This is because once the tissue is infected, most of the infection remains trapped inside the tooth and cannot heal on its own. This is why it is vitally important to see a dentist anytime a patient is concerned about tooth nerve damage or infection.


Treatments for tooth nerve pain

The type of treatment will depend on the cause of tooth nerve pain. Two of the most common procedures include fillings and root canal therapy.


The dentist will use a filing for more shallow decay. With a filling, the dentist removes the decayed tissue from the hard tissue of the tooth and fills the hole with dental cement or another filling material. This restores the area and prevents external stimuli from aggravating the nerve.


The dentist will use root canal therapy or endodontic treatment to treat an infection that has reached the soft tissue. For his treatment dentist entirely removes the infected pulp and damaged nerve. The area is cleaned and sterilized and then sealed. This saves the tooth structure. And though the tooth is no longer viable, it still allows the patient to continue to use the tooth normally without the pain or threat of recurring infection.


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