Odontologia, or toothache, is one of the most common types of pain experienced by adults and children. The pain is often severe, leading to disruption of daily activities, including missed school and work, sleep loss, problems eating, and mood alterations.
But help is on the way. With a $150,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Jennifer L. Gibbs, an assistant professor of endodontics at the College of Dentistry, will investigate the neurobiology of one of the most striking causes of odontologia—pulpitis, or inflammation of the dental pulp, the densely nerve-filled soft tissue contained within the tooth. Pulpitis is commonly diagnosed when a cold stimulus on the tooth causes an exaggerated or prolonged painful response relative to healthy control teeth. Treatment of pulpitis currently involves an irreversible, invasive, and costly clinical procedure, such as root canal treatment or tooth extraction. Understanding the neurobiology of the dental pulp will ultimately help to identify novel tooth pain management strategies.