Why A Dentist Has To Test Your Tooth's Pulp

17 July 2023
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


It's test time! Or at least, this is what you may experience when you visit your dentist to have the cause of a toothache investigated. Your dentist may note decay or corrosion to the tooth's surface enamel, indicating the possibility of bacterial contamination of the tooth's inner structure. It may not be as straightforward as repairing the tooth's outer surface, hence the need for testing, and the subject of this testing is your tooth's pulp.

Dental Pulp 

The pulp is the heart of the tooth, with its own nerves and blood supply. The fact that the pulp has nerves qualifies it to be the only part of the tooth capable of registering pain, meaning this is where your toothache is emanating from. If bacterial contamination has occurred, your pulp has become inflamed—or even infected. A pulp sensitivity test helps your dentist to determine the degree of inflammation, and therefore the best form of treatment.

Temperature Testing

A temperature sensitivity test can offer comprehensive results. This involves your dentist exposing the tooth to a stimulant of an extremely low temperature, and a special oral refrigerant spray is used. This is not the nicest experience, but it's an essential part of the process. What kind of response is your dentist looking for?

Sharp Pain

A healthy dental pulp will always have an adverse reaction to low temperatures. The application of the spray may cause an instant sharp pain, which subsides as soon as the application of the spray is ceased. This is a good outcome, as it indicates the pulp is still functional and reactive. In this case, the tooth's surface decay can be patched (with tooth-colored resin), and the pulp's inflammation will be self-correcting.

Lingering Reaction

If the pain lingers after your dentist ceases application of the refrigerant spray; your pulp may be severely inflamed. A reversal of this inflammation may be possible, but intervention may be needed. Your dentist can suggest pulp capping, which opens the tooth and applies a layer of protective dressing over the pulp, preventing it from further contamination.

No Reaction

A total lack of response from the pulp when exposed to refrigerant spray is concerning. Your dentist may be ready to make a diagnosis of irreversible pulpitis—when the inflammation has led to pulp necrosis and the tissues have decayed. Root canal treatment will be recommended, and this is the removal of the dead pulpal tissues. 

As you can see, it's important to have any repetitive toothache investigated. Your dental pulp may be in trouble, but a speedy diagnosis can save it.

Contact a local dentist to learn more.