Teeth have always been in our mouths, as a species. Although it has indeed taken some time, humans now have an excellent concept of the tooth, and more importantly –or so it seems due to its special kind of pain- what causes this pain. Understanding what goes on when you feel some pain in your tooth has changed over time. Likewise, it has changed over time the thoughts upon which actually caused this pain. Until man was able to magnify his vision a massive amount of times, he was ignorant of any scientific facts, and instead offered supernatural and often wild ideas as to the sources of such pain. In the case of a tooth, superstition held that small, undetectable worms caused the pain, as they ate away at your tooth. Such tales, started around medieval times, somehow persisted through to the age of enlightenment, when man began to study his body and his environments in much more detail through detecting equipment, which was newly invented, and use it to eventually attain an unassailable situation of supremacy over the supernatural offerings.
A new, unseen world was now being explored, and the results, along with the Zeitgeist of the times, prompted the celebrated Scottish Age of Enlightenment, in which men of the time, such as David Hume or Adam Smith began to philosophize about the empirical data being collected and presented before the public. Great strides were made in almost all areas of human knowledge, and it was not long before a much greater understanding of the tooth, and its components and their roles, had the power of this improved thought brought to bear upon its mysteries. Man was now able to identify four parts to the tooth, which substances they comprised of, and what caused them to decay. It was also discovered that the reason that ones can suffer horrendous bouts of toothache is due to the nerves which are connected to both tooth and jaw. The build up of bacteria, how this occurred and the resultant abscess could now be witnessed in a laboratory, and a greater understanding led to new developments. Soon after, treatments and theories were copious as to remedy toothache, with the new understanding promoted for better sincerity and authority.
What Does a Tooth Nerve Do?
The main function for a nerve in the tooth is to allow us to have some kind of feeling when we bite and chew. For example, if a stone were to be inside some food you were chewing, if you didn’t have nerves in your teeth you would not feel it (imagine it didn’t come into contact with other sensitive parts of your mouth) and would continue to bite and chew down on the stone, potentially chipping, fracturing, breaking or even shattering your teeth! The other function of a tooth nerve is to alert the brain to a problem with one of your teeth, usually by throbbing and causing pain, and that action needs to be taken to address the situation. The nerves allow us to know when to stop exerting pressure with our teeth, and when our teeth are in pain. The tooth nerves are located in the central pulp of the tooth. This area is made from soft connective tissue and contains blood vessels and nerves that enter the tooth from a hole at the apex of the root. This pulpy area is commonly called the nerve of the tooth. Check out the You Tube video on common ways to avoid nerve damage:
Why Do Abscesses Happen?
Abscesses are an intense kind of toothache, caused by the formation of bacteria at a site in the base of a decaying tooth. After eating, and if not properly brushed and removed, acids wear down part of the outer tooth, and if not properly treated, the tissue inside the tooth can start to degrade. Such a condition is ideal from passing bacteria, which begin to accumulate and eventually infect the area, causing a massive build up of germs inside the tooth. Unlike other areas of a person’s body, the bacteria cannot be moved around or separated, as there is nowhere for them to go. Added to this, as the tooth has been decayed before the bacteria arrived – and much more after their arrival – they blood supply will have been shut off to the area infected, meaning the usual defence of white blood cells will not be able to reach the site at all. This build up of bacterial pus can cause colossal pain and pressure in the jaw, and will be treated either with extraction or root canal treatment upon admission to a dentist.
What Does Root Canal Treatment Do?
Root canal treatment is an attempt by the dentist to save a tooth that has decayed and needs treated. Teeth have small, long holes or canal inside them where the roots are, connecting to the lower portions and jaw. The procedure involves the dentist clearing these canals out as best he can, before filling them with an inert substance, and capping it with a crown for added strength, as dead teeth tend to be slightly weaker than living ones. The root canal treatment is usually completed over two appointments, each lasting up to two hours. At the first appointment, the dentist should:
- Administer an appropriate pain relieving injection
- Drill into the pulp chamber and remove infected pulp
- Clean the canals buy use of needle like instruments
- Ensures all canals are clear of debris and infected pulp
It can take a while for the dentist to remove enough of the tooth to satisfactorily gain access to the canals, and can take up to ninety minutes to complete this procedure alone. Once satisfied, he/she will ensure the area is as clean as possible before applying a temporary sedative filling, and will arrange a return appointment for the permanent filling. This can be up to two weeks, and most people suffer no major discomfort during this time. The second appointment involves:
- A good dentist will offer a pain relieving injection, even though the follow up appointment is not as painful
- Some time may be spent doing some final shaping of the tooth by the dentist, until he is fully satisfied with its shape.
- An inert substance, such as gutta percha.
- Next the composite filling is applied building up a thicker layer by using many thinner strips attached together. They are ‘cured’ dry once in place, using a light beam.
- The patients bite should be checked as final confirmation.
Are There Any Other Effective Treatments?
Usually, by the time an abscess has developed, the tooth has decayed to the point of no repair. As the bacterial pus in restricted, or trapped inside the tooth with nowhere to go, the first thing the dentist should do is try to remove the infected parts of the pulp, and ascertain whether or not the tooth can be saved. If this is possible, then the root canal procedure can be attempted, otherwise the only option is to have the tooth extracted. Of course, the resultant gap can be filled with a new implant, which can remove the problem of having an embarrassing space in the mouth. Many people who have suffered an abscess in their mouth have described the pain as the worst they have suffered, and faced with this type of pain, will opt just to have the tooth taken out, rather than suffer more pain during the root canal treatment.
Interestingly, evolutionary scientists that as a result of future changes to the human body will ‘stop’ producing wisdom teeth have forecast it. These teeth, along with the coccyx and human body hair, were included in a list of about a dozen traits the human body does not have much use for anymore and is forecast to be ‘evolved’ out of existence by none other than Charles Darwin, the celebrated author of The Origin Of The Species in 1859. Darwin also stated that in our ancient past, the jaw of our ancestors were longer, and have shortened over time. This led to a crowding of the molar area in the mouth, and when the wisdom teeth eventually attempt to come through, a lack of room begins to cause issues, such as infections, and before the advent of dentistry, would often lead to death. Darwin implied that those with shorter mouths would be removed from the human gene pool through this action. As we have access to good quality dental practices nowadays, promoters of Darwin’s theory claim there is not much selective pressure on the wisdom tooth by evolution, as people with shorter jaws are able to have their wisdom teeth safely removed. Of course, as with all theories, Darwin’s interpretation regarding the evolution of the wisdom teeth of course remains open to interpretation.