Pulp Chamber Basics
It may look like just a bone to you, but the tooth is actually a complicated structure designed to help us chew and speak. In fact, the tooth isn't a bone at all! The tooth can be broken down into two parts: the crown, which is the part we see, and the root, which is nestled beneath the gum line and anchors our teeth to the jawbone.
Teeth contain several components. The outlying section of the crown is called the tooth enamel, a hard material that protects our teeth from normal wear and tear. Under the enamel is plenty of dentin, which fills a good portion of the crown and acts as a shock absorber.
If you peeled away all the layers of dentin, you'd see the pulp chamber. Pulp chambers are found at the center of the tooth between the crown and the tooth's root canals. Without it, our teeth wouldn't be able to tell us that anything is wrong!
Chamber of Secrets
The pulp chamber's roof and walls are made up of outlying dentin. But the pulp chamber isn't perfectly round -- it actually resembles the shape of the crown. The pulp chamber has what's called pulp horns, which are points where the pulp chamber extends towards the tooth's cusps. At the bottom of the pulp chamber are orifices which allow fibers to enter the chamber through the roots.
You might think of a chamber as an open space, but the cavity of the pulp chamber is jam-packed with materials. Both the pulp chamber and root canals are filled with a soft tissue, appropriately called the pulp. Dentists refer to the tissue within the pulp chamber as coronal pulp, while radicular pulp pertains to the pulp located within the root canals. As we grow, the pulp helps our teeth develop by supplying nutrients and forming dentin. Once the tooth is fully matured, pulp is no longer needed for the tooth's survival.
Of All the Nerve!
So what's the point of having pulp after our teeth stop growing? Well, pulp contains all the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues in our teeth, which enter through the base of the tooth's root, travel up through the root canal and gather at the pulp chamber. Our nerves function by relaying signals, such as sensitivity to hot or cold, to the brain. When tooth decay reaches the pulp chamber, a message is sent to the brain that you're having pain. And that's a good thing -- you then know you have one of several possible dental problems you need to get fixed right away!
Let's say you do have a toothache. Once untreated cavities penetrate through the dentin, they can break through the pulp chamber and infect the tooth's pulp. This condition, known as pulpitis, is a painful infection that causes the pulp to die, and at-home toothache remedies just won't do the trick. Left untreated, the diseased pulp can lead to a dental abscess or tooth loss. In this case, a root canal is needed to save the tooth.
During the root canal procedure, the dentist removes the infected pulp. The dentist reaches the pulp by drilling through the dentin. Once the pulp chamber is opened, the dentist will remove the infected pulp, clean the roots and pulp chamber and fill them to keep bacteria from entering the empty chamber. A dental crown is put on the tooth to prevent further infection. Luckily, the pulp is not vital to the life of a mature tooth, and a root canal will allow you to keep your natural teeth for years to come.
Protecting Your Pulp Chamber
Endodontic work refers to fixing diseases of the pulp chamber, and endodontists are dental specialists trained to do just that. But you can take measures to protect your pulp from infection yourself. Good oral hygiene will reduce your chances of getting tooth decay. Dental checkups are also extremely important to the life of your teeth. During an exam, your dentist checks for signs of tooth decay, and can then fill dental cavities before they reach the pulp chambers.
Now that you've gotten to know your teeth a little better, you should make more time for them! Think about pulp chambers and its bundle of nerves next time you eat a sugary snack or don't feel like brushing your teeth. Keeping your pulp chamber intact can prevent a very unnerving experience, so do your best to preserve it now!
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