Root Canal Tests – Do You Need a Root Canal?

Root canal tests are an important way for your endodontist to determine which tooth is painful.  How do you know if you need a root canal? It can often be difficult for patients to identify which tooth is hurting them.  There are a series of root canal tests that can pin point the painful area.

What Root Canal Tests are Available?               

Root Canal Tests - How Do You Know if You Need a Root Canal?Cold

Cold testing tests proper tooth nerve function. Often, a refrigerant sprayed on a cotton pellet is placed on a tooth to test normal function. A healthy tooth nerve will feel sense slight discomfort from the cold and will return to normal when the cold pellet is removed.

Electric Pulp Tester (EPT)

This test sends an electrical current from a small battery through the tooth. A healthy tooth nerve with feel a tingling sensation, while an unhealthy nerve may feel no sensation at all.


Periodontal probing can expose the loss of the underlying done and helps determine the health of the gingiva and periodontal attachment. It is an important test to rule out “gum” pain, which a patient may confuse with tooth pain.

Percussion “Tapping”

Tapping on a tooth is a helpful test to determine if the periodontal ligament connecting the tooth to the surrounding bone is inflamed. Although this test may be uncomfortable    to healthy teeth, extreme sensitivity can be a sign of dental disease.


Pressing on the gingival and bone overlying the root tips normally does not cause discomfort. A painful sensation may indicate an infection in the bone.


Pressing on opposite sides of a tooth with dental mirror handles can test the health of the periodontal ligament and its ability to keep the tooth centered in the tooth socket.

How Do You Know if You Need a Root Canal?

A trained endodontist can use diagnostic skill and information obtained from the patient to determine the source of the dental pain and determine the proper treatment to treat dental disease.