Our rows of teeth may look indestructible from the outside, but they are more like a hard candy with a chewy center. The bones of our teeth encase bundles of nerves, soft tissue, and blood vessels known as dental pulp. If the outer part of the tooth is compromised, this soft center can become infected, developing into a condition called pulpitis. The first stage of this infection is called reversible pulpitis.

What is reversible pulpitis?

Reversible pulpitis is an infection of the nerves, blood vessels, and tissues in the center of our teeth. This can affect one or more teeth at a time, but reversible pulpitis is more likely to occur in one tooth.

There are many different causes of reversible pulpitis. Essentially, anything that can chip into the outside of the tooth, allowing bacteria to enter the dental pulp, can cause reversible pulpitis.

The most common causes of reversible pulpitis include:

  • Trauma to the tooth or mouth
  • Cavity
  • Eating hard foods
  • Diet
  • Breakdown of enamel

Trauma to the tooth or mouth

Trauma can include anything from accidents and injuries to other dental work.

If a tooth is hit or becomes cracked or opened, this can potentially allow bacteria to get in. In the case of dental work, your dentist may ask you to take an antibiotic prior to the work as a preventative measure. This is only done when your dentist believes you have a higher chance of infection due to other health conditions (e.g., diabetes or a compromised immune system).


If left untreated, cavity can dig deep into the tooth all the way to the center, causing this condition.

Eating hard foods

Prolonged eating of hard foods like pretzels and hard candy can not only cause cavity but also cracks and chips in the teeth that can allow bacteria to enter.

General diet

If it causes cavity, it can be also be a cause of reversible pulpitis. High fat, high sugar, and high acid diets are all culprits in dental infections.

Breakdown of enamel

At-home tooth whiteners and toothpastes may make your smile bright, but they can also permanently erode your tooth’s protective enamel. Excessive consumption of soda and juice also eats away the tooth enamel over time.

Warning signs of reversible pulpitis

Reversible pulpitis symptoms and warning signs include:

  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Sensitivity to sweet things
  • Pain when the tooth is pressed

Sensitivity to hot and cold

Just as an infected cut is tender and painful when touched, the dental pulp is more sensitive to stimuli like hot and cold. Your morning coffee or after-dinner ice cream may cause pain in the early stages of reversible pulpitis.

Sensitivity to sweetness

Maybe it’s the way your tooth is getting back at you for one sugary snack too many, but reversible pulpitis often comes with a sensitivity to sweets that can cause pain when they are consumed.

Sensitivity and pain with pressure

This condition can cause pain whenever you apply pressure to the tooth. Unlike the constant dull ache of irreversible pulpitis, reversible pulpitis pain generally diminishes when you release pressure.

What’s the difference between reversible and irreversible pulpitis?

If pulpitis could be considered in degrees, reversible pulpitis would be the lesser of the two evils. Reversible pulpitis is generally considered very treatable in that the tooth can be saved. With irreversible pulpitis, the dental pulp is so infected that the nerves begin to die, resulting in a necrotic tooth.

While the causes of both are similar, one of their major symptoms can help determine whether the tooth has reversible or irreversible pulpitis. Irreversible pulpitis comes with a steady