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Reversible Pulpitis – Clarification from a Dentist

By Dave / February 11, 2008

Sue wrote:

I am a dentist, and your description of reversible pulpitis is incorrect.

What you are actually describing is arrested caries. Reversible pulpitis is inflammation of the pulpal tissue that is caused by an irritant, once the irritant is removed, the pulpitis (inflammation) will resolve.

Arrested decay occurs when tooth structure begins the decay process, and because of certain factors(lack of substrate, fluoridation treatments) the caries can be halted, or arrested.

This area can be remineralized with the calcium from within the saliva, or fluoride. The evidence of arrested decay is seen radiographically as an area that is not progressing.

However, that requires multiple radiographs taken 6 months apart to visualize the progress.

Reply: Thank you Sue. I do truly appreciate your correction. I will tell you why I refer to reversible pulpitis the way I do. When my dentist tried to drill a perfectly good tooth and I questioned her about it, she said, ‘it could be reversible pulpitis’.

I’m sure that your correction is accurate, but I am also equally sure that the situation I described previously is widely referred to as reversible pulpitis by dental professionals. I am certain of this because I described the situation I experienced as ‘reversible pulpitis’ on multiple occasions to dental professionals including dentists and hygienists and not one of them corrected me on my usage of the term.

Perhaps this is one of those terms that is has fallen into misuse as do so many other words from professional or lay literature?

I’m curious though. How does the pulp become irritated without a breach in the enamel?

Here is the definition of pulpitis as taken from Wikipedia [Wikipedia.org]:

“Causes of Pulpitis

1. Caries that penetrate though the tooth enamel, the dentin, and into the pulp.

2. Repeated dental procedures or tooth trauma


Thanks again, Sue. If you could share more insight on this, it would be greatly appreciated.


– Dave

*As always, if you have a dental health problem, visit your dentist or periodontist for proper diagnosis, advice and treatment. This sight is for information and entertainment purposes only and may not contain correct information in the eyes of more learned professionals.

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