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Vol. 75, No. 2
ISSN: 1488-2159
March 2009


Dental Pulp Neurophysiology: Part 2. Current Diagnostic Tests to Assess Pulp Vitality


• Ashraf Abd-Elmeguid, BDS, MDSc •
• Donald C. Yu, DMD, CAGS, MScD, FRCD(C) •

A b s t r a c t

In this second part of our 2-part review, we discuss recent research about pulp tests that determine the vitality of the tooth and clinically accepted pulp testers. A pain response to hot, cold or an electric pulp tester indicates the vitality of only a tooth's pulpal sensory supply; the response does not give any idea about the state of the pulp. Although the sensitivity of these tests is high, when false-positive and false-negative results occur, they may affect the treatment of the tooth. A tooth falsely diagnosed as nonvital with an electric pulp tester may undergo an unnecessary root canal, whereas one falsely diagnosed as vital may be left untreated, causing the necrotic tissue to destroy the supporting tissues (resorption). The vascular supply is more important to the determination of the health of the pulp than the sensory supply. Pulp death is caused by cessation of blood flow and may result in a necrotic pulp, even though the pulpal sensory supply may still be viable. The pulp can be healed only if the circulating blood flow is healthy. Although still under investigation, diagnostic devices that examine pulpal blood flow, such as the pulse oximeter and laser Doppler flowmetry, show promising results for the assessment of pulp vitality.


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