Dental sensitivity testing methods

Teeth are hard tissues that help in various everyday functions such as chewing, speaking and laughing, as well as giving a harmonious appearance to the face.

Patients who come to the dentist are interested in having both a harmonious appearance of the dental arches and healthy teeth that are free of pain and sensitivity.

Teeth are always subject to insults, most of which are the result of external factors acting on the oral cavity.

The defence capacity of the oral cavity sums up all the mechanisms by which hard and soft tissues resist constant bacterial, thermal or mechanical attack.

If an imbalance occurs in the oral cavity, the harmful factors mentioned above can alter the oral structures, resulting in pain or dental sensitivity.

Depending on the aggressor, the damage can be:

Mechanical – abrasion, attrition and loss of substance due to trauma, most commonly caused by interposed objects or abrasive particles.

Chemical – chemical damage is called erosion and occurs when teeth come into contact with agents that have the ability to dissolve enamel. This is common with the consumption of carbonated beverages, natural fruit juices, or with performance swimmers who train in pools containing high amounts of chlorine.

Bacterial – occurs when tooth surfaces are denatured as a result of contact with bacterial agents. The resulting process is called demineralization, whereby teeth lose their mineral salts and are more susceptible to decay.

Following these destructive processes, the primary symptomatology, encountered in most cases, is the appearance of dental sensitivity.

This can occur when eating, when consuming foods or liquids of extreme temperatures, too hot or too cold, or sweet and sour.

The dentist can determine dental sensitivity using specific tests such as:

Thermal tests – a stimulus is applied to the dental units in question after the clinical examination, which can be of very high or very low temperature.

Whether using gutta-percha sticks which are hot or cooling spray, ice, very low temperature, the results are the same, ultimately the doctor detecting how the tooth reacts to the thermal stimulus.

In the case of a tooth with normal vitality, the hardness or feeling of sensitivity ceases as soon as the thermal stimulus is removed.

Electrical tests – when applying this type of test, the teeth must be well insulated, protected from contact with surrounding fluids.

Mechanical tests – these are tests in which the tooth is drilled exploratorily.

When the dentist is not sure about the vitality of a tooth, he may explore the tooth.

The method is invasive and is only used when no other sensitivity testing has been successful.

For this maneuver, rotating instruments are used, without anesthesia, and gradually penetrated until the dentin is reached.

Due to its invasiveness and the fact that it causes discomfort to the patient, the mechanical method is rarely used in practice.

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