The cost, prevalence and pain associated with endodontic disease necessitate an understanding of the fundamental molecular aspects of its pathogenesis. This study was aimed to identify the genetic contributors to pulpal pain and inflammation. Inflamed pulps were collected from patients diagnosed with irreversible pulpitis (n=20). Normal pulps from teeth extracted for various reasons served as controls (n=20). Pain level was assessed using a visual analog scale (VAS). Genome-wide microarray analysis was performed using Affymetrix GeneTitan Multichannel Instrument. The difference in gene expression levels were determined by the significance analysis of microarray program using a false discovery rate (q-value) of 5%. Genes involved in immune response, cytokine-cytokine receptor interaction and signaling, integrin cell surface interactions, and others were expressed at relatively higher levels in the pulpitis group. Moreover, several genes known to modulate pain and inflammation showed differential expression in asymptomatic and mild pain patients (⩾30 mm on VAS) compared with those with moderate to severe pain. This exploratory study provides a molecular basis for the clinical diagnosis of pulpitis. With an enhanced understanding of pulpal inflammation, future studies on treatment and management of pulpitis and on pain associated with it can have a biological reference to bridge treatment strategies with pulpal biology.