Tooth nerve and how it works

Tooth nerve and how it works


Dental pain usually comes from the nerve of the tooth. If you have a problem with the tooth nerve, it doesn’t necessarily mean that tooth has to come out – you can opt to have the damaged nerve removed without taking out the outer enamel ‘shell’ of the tooth itself. This is called a root canal treatment.

The tooth pulp, which is the squishy part more commonly called the tooth ‘nerve’, is in the very centre of the tooth, underneath the enamel and dentine layer, inside the pulp chamber.

It can be tremendously sensitive and when something aggravates the nerve, you’ll experience darting, sharp pain.

The total tooth pulp contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and large nerves. It branches out and continues down each root through the canals of the tooth and stops just short of the apex, or tip of the tooth.

The pulp has several functions, such as:

Reacting to hot and cold

Trauma to the tooth nerve is really painful, and it also reacts to differences in temperature and pressure. Ever eat or drink something very cold and find your teeth are ‘ringing’ with pain? That’s the nerve being stimulated.

Making dentine

The pulp is responsible for the formation of dentin. Dentin, or dentine as it’s sometimes called in the UK and Ireland, is the hard tissue that makes up the core of each tooth.

It’s the part of a tooth that lies underneath the enamel, which covers the outside of teeth, and the cementum, which covers the roots. Dentin is yellowish and contains tiny openings that lead to the nerves and cells inside the tooth.

If the enamel on a tooth gets worn away and the dentin is exposed, the tooth can look yellow and hot or cold foods can stimulate the tooth’s nerves, causing tooth sensitivity.  In response to trauma, the pulp forms secondary dentin, also known as reparative dentin.


The pulp contains blood vessels that help to prevent the tooth from becoming brittle by keeping it moisturized and nourished.

Potential Problems with your Tooth Nerve

Inflammation of the pulp from tooth decay, infection, trauma, and so on can result in a condition known as pulpitis.

Root canal therapy is a dental procedure that is preformed to remove the pulp from the tooth when pulpitis has become irreversible or the pulp is dead. Once removed from the tooth, the pulp will not regenerate inside the tooth, and the tooth becomes non-vital (dead).

Root Canal often preferable to Extraction

A root canal treatment is often a better option than simply extracting the tooth, as extraction will lead to recession of the gum and jawbone in the space where the tooth used to sit.

This in turn can have a domino effect on neighbouring teeth, much like taking a brick out of the middle of a wall; the teeth on each side no longer have anything to support them and will start to shift as the gum and jawbone recede from the area where the tooth was pulled.

A root canal treatment will involve removing the nerve from the tooth so it is no longer painful, leaving the ‘shell’ of the natural tooth in place. The root space is then filled with a filler material.

As a general rule, a root canal treatment is successful at eliminating any infection so you can keep your tooth; modern dental techniques mean the colour of the tooth is usually preserved, but if there is any discolouration you can always have the tooth crowned.

To book a consultation at Smile Store – Your Local Dental Specialists and find out what the best option is for you, just call 021 432 0004 or see for more information on root canal treatments.