What Are Dental Pulp Stones?

In relation to human anatomy, stones are bad news—in most cases. Stones (calcified mineral salts) can develop at numerous locations in your body, and often require medical treatment (consider the discomfort associated with gallstones and kidney stones). But what about when a dentist discovers stones that have developed inside your teeth?

Inside Your Tooth's Pulp Chamber

These growths are called pulp stones because they develop inside your pulp chamber. This is the hollow at the center of a tooth that hosts the dental pulp (which is the tooth's nerve). Given the minimal available space, there's a limit to how large a pulp stone may grow. The mineralized tissues that have formed the stones are generally composed of dead cells and collagen. In most cases, it's your dentist who informs you of the presence of pulp stones, instead of you reporting any associated symptoms.

Identifying a Pulp Stone

Pulp stones are often discovered during standard diagnostic testing (such as when you require an x-ray or radiograph). Individual stones may not be detected by diagnostic testing, but an accumulation of stones become radiopaque—meaning they have sufficient density to prevent the x-ray beams passing through them, making them detectable. It might be concerning when your dentist informs you that you have pulp stones. Don't worry, because these growths are benign, and are of minimal clinical significance—in most cases.

If Treatment Is Needed

Although the dimensions of a pulp chamber sharply limit the potential size of a pulp stone, those same dimensions can cause a few issues (in rare cases). The chamber is intended to house your dental pulp, and there's little room for anything else. Should the pulp stone compress your dental pulp (endangering its health while also causing discomfort), then the stone may need to be removed. This involves a similar principle to a root canal, but instead of removing the infected dental pulp from its chamber, the pulp is left alone while the surrounding stones are removed. The tooth is then finished with a filling to close the access cavity that your dentist made. Should you ever require endodontic treatment (for your dental pulp or a tooth's roots), then any stones may require removal to enable this treatment. 

Pulp stones are very common, and the likelihood of them developing increases with age. For most patients, the presence of any pulp stones won't be relevant to their dental health (meaning treatment isn't necessary). If the size and configuration of the stone cause any issues, removal is a very straightforward task.