Your teeth are made up of many layers of tissue. The outer layer, the enamel, is the hard, white part you see when you smile. Beneath the enamel, you have dentin, a sensitive tissue that makes up the bulk of the tooth's structure. At the very center, beneath the dentin, there is pulp. The pulp contains the blood vessels and nerves that your tooth needs to stay alive. Sometimes, portions of the pulp harden, forming dental pulp stones. Here's what you need to know about this condition.
Why does the pulp harden?
Researchers aren't completely sure why pulp hardens. Studies have suggested various potential causes such as degeneration of the pulp, old age, decreased blood flow to the pulp, and even genetics. People with pulp stones also tend to have long-term tooth problems like cavities or inflammation. Conditions outside of the mouth have also been suggested as causes, for example, kidney stones. If you develop pulp stones, your dentist may have no idea why it happened since there are so many possible causes.
What are the signs of this condition?
A toothache is the most common symptom in people with pulp stones. This toothache can be mild and easy to ignore, or it can be so severe that you have trouble chewing. If the stone is large enough, it can block your pulp chamber and cause the death of your pulp due to lack of blood flow. This will make your tooth darken and turn grey or black.
If your stones are mild, you may not notice any symptoms, and won't know you have pulp stones until your dentist discovers them after taking routine x-rays. If your dentist shows you the x-rays, you'll see round or oval stones inside the center of your tooth. These stones can be very small, or they can fill the entire pulp. There can be one or more stones inside the tooth.
Is this a common problem?
Studies have shown a huge discrepancy of prevalence rates of pulp stones, depending on the study type and the population studied. This condition has been shown to affect between 8% and 90% of the participants in various studies. More studies need to be done to figure out exactly how common this condition is in the general American population.
How is it treated?
If your pulp stones are small and not causing you any problems, your dentist may recommend leaving them alone. The pulp stones will be monitored at future checkups to make sure they're not growing or causing pain or other problems.
If they are large and causing pain, your dentist will perform a root canal procedure. This is a routine procedure that can be done in your dentist's office in one visit. First, your dentist will numb the area. Next, the top portion of your tooth will be removed to give your dentist access to the pulp. The pulp and the stones will be removed, and the resulting opening will be carefully cleaned. Finally, the opening will be filled, and a crown will be placed on top of your tooth to seal it.
Dental pulp stones are calcified areas that develop inside the pulp of your tooth. These stones can range from painless to very painful. If you have a toothache, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Your toothache may be caused by pulp stones, but they can be easily treated.