Correlation between clinical and histologic pulp diagnoses

J Endod. 2014 Dec;40(12):1932-9. doi: 10.1016/j.joen.2014.08.010. Epub 2014 Oct 12.


Introduction: Clinicians routinely face conditions in which they have to decide whether the dental pulp can be saved or not. This study evaluated how reliable the clinical diagnosis of normal pulp/reversible pulpitis (savable pulp) or irreversible pulpitis (nonsavable pulp) is when compared with the histologic diagnosis.

Methods: The study material consisted of 95 teeth collected consecutively in a general practice over a 5-year period and extracted for reasons not related to this study. Based on clinical criteria, teeth were categorized as having normal pulps, reversible pulpitis, or irreversible pulpitis. The former 2 were grouped together because they represent similar conditions in terms of prognosis. Teeth were processed for histologic and histobacteriologic analyses, and pulps were categorized as healthy, reversibly inflamed, or irreversibly inflamed according to defined criteria. The number of matching clinical/histologic diagnosis was recorded.

Results: The clinical diagnosis of normal pulp/reversible pulpitis matched the histologic diagnosis in 57 of 59 (96.6%) teeth. Correspondence of the clinical and histologic diagnosis of irreversible pulpitis occurred in 27 of 32 (84.4%) cases. Infection advancing to the pulp tissue was a common finding in teeth with irreversible pulpitis but was never observed in normal/reversibly inflamed pulps.

Conclusions: Findings using defined criteria for clinical and histologic classification of pulp conditions revealed a good agreement, especially for cases with no disease or reversible disease. This means that the classification of pulp conditions as normal pulps, reversible pulpitis, and irreversible pulpitis has high chances of guiding the correct therapy in the large majority of cases. However, there is still a need for refined and improved means for reliable pulp diagnosis.

Keywords: Clinical diagnosis; histologic; irreversible pulpitis; reversible pulpitis.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Composite Resins / chemistry
  • Dental Amalgam / chemistry
  • Dental Caries / pathology
  • Dental Materials / chemistry
  • Dental Pulp / anatomy & histology*
  • Dental Pulp Necrosis / diagnosis
  • Dental Pulp Necrosis / pathology
  • Dental Pulp Test
  • Dental Restoration, Permanent
  • Dentin / pathology
  • Dentin, Secondary / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odontoblasts / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Pulpitis / diagnosis*
  • Pulpitis / microbiology
  • Pulpitis / pathology
  • Young Adult


  • Composite Resins
  • Dental Materials
  • Dental Amalgam