What Is Acute Pulpitis?

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  • Written By: Glyn Sinclair
  • Edited By: Rachel Catherine Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 09 August 2019
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Pulpitis occurs when the pulp material inside the tooth becomes inflamed due to decay and the presence of bacteria. The condition can either be chronic or acute. Chronic pulpitis refers to a condition that tends to remain over a long period of time. Acute pulpitis refers to a condition that is usually very painful and typically brief in duration. The pulp can sometimes become so severely damaged that the pulpitis is irreversible and the pulp eventually dies.

Symptoms of irreversible pulpitis are typically a low-grade pain or ache and sensitivity to hot and cold liquids or foods. The pain can also continue after the stimulus has been removed. Pulpitis can also be reversible. This can occur when there is an irritant in the pulp and is usually resolved once the irritant has been removed. Some of the symptoms of reversible pulpitis can include sensitivity to touch and hot and cold stimuli.

There are two types of acute pulpitis: purulent pulpitis and gangrenous pulpitis. Purulent pulpitis is a condition whereby the entire inner pulp is inflamed and can often seem more painful when the person is lying down. Gangrenous pulpitis is when the pulp begins to die and is generally not as painful as purulent pulpitis. Soon after the pulp begins to die it becomes irreversible. Chronic pulpitis can often be the result of acute pulpitis.


Some of the symptoms of acute pulpitis can include a sporadic pulse-like pain and is the result of fluid buildup within the pulp. The pain can also be sharp and intense. There may be a visible opening near the tooth with pus and blood seeping from it. The initial treatment of acute pulpitis is to remove any debris from around the cavity and clean it out with a cotton swap soaked in eugenol. Eugenol is a substance present in clove oil and other essential oils and is used as an antiseptic as well as for pain.

Sometimes pulpitis can occur when there is a crack in the tooth and the pulp is exposed to bacteria. Food is able to filter into the crack and further irritate the pulp to create an acute pulpitis condition. Dentists may recommend a root canal or even tooth extraction if the pulp exposure has been too extreme. Pulpitis can also be caused by poor oral hygiene and proper flossing and brushing is recommended to prevent this condition from occurring.


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