Comparison of heat-testing methodology

Mark M. Bierma, Scott B McClanahan, Michael K. Baisden, Walter R Bowles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Scopus citations


Introduction: Patients with irreversible pulpitis occasionally present with a chief complaint of sensitivity to heat. To appropriately diagnose the offending tooth, a variety of techniques have been developed to reproduce this chief complaint. Such techniques cause temperature increases that are potentially damaging to the pulp. Newer electronic instruments control the temperature of a heat-testing tip that is placed directly against a tooth. The aim of this study was to determine which method produced the most consistent and safe temperature increase within the pulp. This consistency facilitates the clinician's ability to differentiate between a normal pulp and irreversible pulpitis. Methods: Four operators applied the following methods to each of 4 extracted maxillary premolars (for a total of 16 trials per method): heated gutta-percha, heated ball burnisher, hot water, and a System B unit or Elements unit with a heat-testing tip. Each test was performed for 60 seconds, and the temperatures were recorded via a thermocouple in the pulp chamber. Analysis of the data was performed by using the intraclass correlation coefficient. Results: The least consistent warming was found with hot water. The heat-testing tip also demonstrated greater consistency between operators compared with the other methods. Hot water and the heated ball burnisher caused temperature increases high enough to damage pulp tissue. Conclusions: The Elements unit with a heat-testing tip provides the most consistent warming of the dental pulp.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1106-1109
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Endodontics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2012


  • Electronic probe
  • gutta-percha
  • injury
  • thermocouple
  • tooth

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