What is a Dental Vitality Test?
When the health of a tooth is in question, dentists like Dr. James Lesch in Lakeville, Minnesota often use dental vitality tests to help them make a final decision. These tests stimulate the inner tissues of the tooth, called the pulp, and the feeling that results - or lack thereof - is a good way to determine its viability. There are several methods for testing the vitality of a tooth. Read about them here:
Thermal stimuli tests
Patients who come to their Lakeville dentist with a complaint of sensitivity to hot or cold foods or beverages may have pulpitis in one or more teeth. This is an inflammation of the inner parts of the tooth, usually due to cavities that have progressed to the point where bacteria has spread inside the tooth. These tests are simple: the affected tooth is first isolated by your Lakeville dentist, using rubber or plastic appliances. Cold stimuli tests involve the application of ice, refrigerant spray or CO2 snow ("dry ice") and the patient is asked to indicate when they feel a measure of discomfort. Hot tests are applied the same way, using melted compound material, hot water or heated instruments. No response from either of these tests indicates to Dr. Lesch that the tooth has sustained damage to the point where it is no longer viable.
Electric pulp test (EPT)
In this case, your Lakeville dentist uses a small handheld instrument that emits a low electrical current. When applied to a conducting material on the tooth, it will produce a buzzing or tingling sensation. If that sensation remains after Dr. Lesch removes the instrument, it can indicate pulpitis. Again, no response usually means that the tooth is beyond the point of repair and your options for artificial restoration will be discussed.
Limitations of tests
It is important to remember that results of dental vitality tests can vary based on the patient's age, the threshold of sensitivity and the condition of their teeth's surfaces. EPT tests should also not be performed on patients with pacemakers. Therefore, it's important to keep your twice-yearly appointments with Dr. Lesch. This allows for regular updates on your medical and dental history so that accurate diagnoses can be made when problems arise.
If you've been experiencing sensitivity in your teeth, contact Lakeville General & Family Dentistry for an appointment right away.