Making Endodontic Diagnosis More Accurate 

February 13, 2023 Lee Ann Brady DMD

It can often be difficult to make an accurate endodontic diagnosis when patients present with tooth pain. We want to be able to get clear results from diagnostic testing so we can feel confident in our treatment recommendations.

One of the things I know to be true for my office and for many of our offices is the challenge of getting clear endodontic diagnostic information. One of the things that can cloud our diagnosis is the effect of over-the-counter medications.

To get accurate endodontic information, the patient must not take pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication in the 8 to 10 hours before you are doing your diagnosis. So, we need to ask patients if they have taken any Tylenol, Advil, or Aleve. We also need to think of patients who are taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories on a general basis. These are patients who are not taking them for the tooth but on a routine basis for other reasons such as arthritis.

If I am going to refer the patient to an endodontist and they are going to continue the diagnostic process, I want to coach the patient to not take any pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication for about 8 hours before that appointment. Otherwise, they may not be able to provide the accurate information needed for an accurate diagnosis and most appropriate treatment.

This is something I have passed on to the team members who answer the phone and schedule appointments in my practice. When someone calls to schedule an appointment to diagnose their discomfort, we tell them to do us a favor and not take any more pain medication or anti-inflammatory medication before we see them. Ideally, any of these drugs will be out of the patient’s system before the patient arrives.

Note that your patients who suffer from chronic inflammatory pain conditions such as bursitis, arthritis, and fibromyalgia are often prescribed anti-inflammatory medications that are long-lasting, for example, Celebrex and Meloxicam. These drugs are taken every 24 hours, so their effects last longer and pose a greater risk of clouding a pulpal diagnosis.

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Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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Fixing the Failed Restoration: Exam & Evaluation

July 29, 2018 Lee Ann Brady DMD

A comprehensive exam is the first step in a long line of decisions that can end in case success or failure. For this case, my patient presented with a litany of problems and dental concerns.

Failed Restoration: Patient History

When I first encountered the patient, she had a six unit anterior bridge with temporary cement. She came to my practice because she was unhappy with how her dental work looked and was interested in a permanent restoration that would truly suit her goals.

She had a checkered dental history beginning with orthodontic treatment for a diastema between the maxillary centrals and a left maxillary lateral that fractured down to the root and had to be removed. After a FPD was placed for the tooth removal, her diastema reopened and the right maxillary was also lost to fracture.

That wasn’t even it for the patient’s woes. She was given a bridge that made her very unhappy and also had to have endodontic therapy on the upper right canine. Despite multiple placements, the restoration was never to her liking.

Esthetically, the patient wanted to remedy her uneven gingival margin, the length of the upper right canine, the relative size of laterals and centrals, and the color match. The latter was difficult to remedy because of tetracycline staining from her childhood. Finally, she was also displeased with the thick feeling of the bridge.

All of this together painted a picture of a patient in need of serious help.

Failed Restoration: Evaluation & Exam

My esthetic evaluation confirmed many of her concerns. I completed it intraorally and with diagnostic photographs. The patient presented with tooth proportion asymmetries, inadequate tooth display at rest on one central, an uneven incisal plane, and gingival discrepancies.

Her comprehensive exam revealed normal TMD joints, but also showed posterior wear. She had muscle pain and headaches yet no muscle tenderness. I put her on six weeks of appliance therapy, which led to the discovery that she had a habit of ‘power wiggling.’ I was then able to obtain an accurate centric relation bite record.

I removed the anterior bridge for radiography of the abutments. It became clear that her maxillary right canine had a lot of decay and inadequate ferrule.

To be continued…

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About Author

User Image
Lee Ann Brady DMD

Dr. Lee Ann Brady is passionate about dentistry, her family and making a difference. She is a general dentist and owns a practice in Glendale, AZ limited to restorative dentistry. Lee’s passion for dental education began as a CE junkie herself, pursuing lots of advanced continuing education focused on Restorative and Occlusion. In 2005, she became a full time resident faculty member for The Pankey Institute, and was promoted to Clinical Director in 2006. Lee joined Spear Education as Executive VP of Education in the fall of 2008 to teach and coordinate the educational curriculum. In June of 2011, she left Spear Education, founded leeannbrady.com and joined the dental practice she now owns as an associate. Today, she teaches at dental meetings and study clubs both nationally and internationally, continues to write for dental journals and her website, sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry, Inside Dentistry and DentalTown Magazines and is the Director of Education for The Pankey Institute.

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