Diagnosis of the condition of the dental pulp: a systematic review

Int Endod J. 2012 Jul;45(7):597-613. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2591.2012.02016.x. Epub 2012 Feb 13.


The aim of this systematic review was to appraise the diagnostic accuracy of signs/symptoms and tests used to determine the condition of the pulp in teeth affected by deep caries, trauma or other types of injury. Radiographic methods were not included. The electronic literature search included the databases PubMed, EMBASE, The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Cochrane Reviews from January 1950 to June 2011. The complete search strategy is given in an Appendix S1 (available online as Supporting Information). In addition, hand searches were made. Two reviewers independently assessed abstracts and full-text articles. An article was read in full text if at least one of the two reviewers considered an abstract to be potentially relevant. Altogether, 155 articles were read in full text. Of these, 18 studies fulfilled pre-specified inclusion criteria. The quality of included articles was assessed using the QUADAS tool. Based on studies of high or moderate quality, the quality of evidence of each diagnostic method/test was rated in four levels according to GRADE. No study reached high quality; two were of moderate quality. The overall evidence was insufficient to assess the value of toothache or abnormal reaction to heat/cold stimulation for determining the pulp condition. The same applies to methods for establishing pulp status, including electric or thermal pulp testing, or methods for measuring pulpal blood circulation. In general, there are major shortcomings in the design, conduct and reporting of studies in this domain of dental research.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Dental Pulp / blood supply
  • Dental Pulp Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Dental Pulp Exposure / diagnosis
  • Dental Pulp Necrosis / diagnosis
  • Dental Pulp Test
  • Evidence-Based Dentistry / standards
  • Humans
  • Pulpitis / diagnosis
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Symptom Assessment


  • Biomarkers