Once a tooth has grown to full size, its nerve serves little function. It's found in the tooth's roots, and so should be safely buried amongst your gum tissues. If your tooth's nerve becomes exposed, you're going to know about it. You might not necessarily know the cause, but an exposed tooth nerve isn't a pleasant experience. In fact, it's the sort of issue you may need to see an emergency dentist about.

An Uncovered Nerve

The pain associated with an exposed tooth nerve can be extreme and can develop very quickly. Instead of being insulated by surrounding tissues, the nerve has been uncovered due to tooth decay, gum disease, or a prior accident. Once exposed, the nerve reacts to even the mildest stimuli.

Unpleasant Stimulation

Eating, drinking, speaking, and even breathing can irritate an exposed tooth nerve. The temperature of foods and drinks, the biomechanical forces used to chew food, the movement of your lips against the exposed nerve, and even air passing over the exposed nerve can all cause significant, even debilitating pain. This is why an exposed tooth nerve can be a dental emergency.

Short-Term Solutions

You have limited options for dealing with the problem yourself. You can apply a piece of sugar-free chewing gum or orthodontic wax to the exposed nerve. Although you won't be able to see the nerve, you can just place a small piece of gum or wax on the base of the tooth. This won't be all that secure, so regular reapplications will be needed. Some relief is also possible with over-the-counter pain medication, and saltwater rinses have antiseptic properties that can alleviate the worst of your symptoms. These are only short-term measures, and won't fix the underlying problem. 

Dangers of Delaying

This underlying problem must be corrected without delay, which is why you shouldn't hesitate to visit an emergency dentist. It's unwise to wait until you can see your usual dentist unless they can see you immediately. Any delays can allow an infection to set in, with the tooth's pulp becoming infected due to bacterial contaminants entering via the exposed nerve. This can mean you'll need a root canal, which can be avoided with emergency treatment.

Sealing the Exposed Nerve

The exposed nerve will be sealed beneath a tooth root filling. This step protects the nerve and allows it to heal. If your gums have receded and allowed the nerve to be exposed, you may need gum grafting. This involves a small amount of gum tissue being extracted from another part of your mouth, before being sutured over the site of the exposed nerve. An emergency dentist will apply the tooth root filling but may refer you back to your dentist if gum grafting is needed. 

An exposed nerve in the roots of your teeth is an unpleasant experience, and it can quickly become even more unpleasant if you don't seek emergency treatment. For more information, contact an emergency dentist near you.