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Tooth Pain Tests

With the advent of the internet, we are becoming a generation of “do-it-yourself”-ers.  Type any question into a search engine, press enter, and you find all sorts of results from YouTube videos to scholarly articles on any subject.  Even with dentistry, you can learn the different tests a dentist performs when diagnosing a tooth with severe pain, some of which you can DIY as well!

Tests For Tooth Pain

After asking some initial questions such as where the pain is located and other qualities of your pain, your dentist may choose to perform one of many tests.  Please be aware, some tests may not be conclusive on their own and may require further testing.


Palpation simply means feeling with your fingertips around the area of your mouth that is bothering you.  Look for any areas that are more tender than others.  Notice any swelling as well.  This can indicate a possible underlying infection.  You should schedule an appointment with an emergency dentist soon!


This is another easy at home test.  Simply grab the tooth bothering you and gently see if there is any movement in the tooth.  While all teeth have a small amount of mobility, you are looking for any permanent teeth that are looser than others.  If you have a tooth with this problem, it is a good idea to see a dentist to find out the cause and seek treatment if possible.


If you have a loose tooth, probing can help determine if you have gum disease. Dentists probe with a small instrument with measurement markers along the gumline of the tooth.  If there is bleeding, or a depth of more than 3-4 millimeters, it is important to have a periodontal evaluation.

Percussion test

When most people hear percussion, they think of drums!  A percussion test uses a small tool to tap the tooth, much like a drummer hits their instrument.  While this sounds unpleasant, remember to start tapping on other teeth that are not problematic, and tap gently.   If a tooth is sensitive, it can mean that the periodontal ligament, or the ligament that supports the tooth, is swollen.  Now while you may think if a tooth doesn’t hurt that it means it is fine.  But if a tooth has no feeling whatsoever, it could mean the pulp, or nerve, in the tooth is dead.  This means another test may be necessary.

Thermal test

A thermal test, or pulp sensitivity test, might be performed in addition a percussion test.  Like the percussion test, experiment on another tooth first.  Place a small piece of ice on the crown of the tooth.  See how reactive the tooth is too cold.  Like the previous test, if a tooth is non-reactive, it may mean the tooth’s pulp loss.  Check with your dentist to see if you need a root canal or extraction.  If there is a lingering response to the cold, the interior of the tooth may be inflamed.  Some dentists perform a similar test with electricity.

X-Ray, or Radiograph test

 An x-ray uses radio waves to check for things like extra teeth, decay, abscesses, impacted wisdom teeth, or other issues such as tumors that are not visible otherwise to the natural eye.   Unfortunately, this is one test that needs to be performed and read in a dental office.

What’s Next?

There only so much that you can do at home, and even then, it can be difficult to correctly decipher the results.  Emergency dentists not only diagnose the cause of the discomfort, but they can do something about it!  Emergency Dental makes it convenient to get an expert’s opinion on your toothache with evening and weekend hours.  From prescribing pain medications, antibiotics to treat infections and abscesses, root canals, fillings, extractions, crowns, and periodontal treatment, they treat all dental emergencies with financing plans helps you pay for the unexpected.

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