Cervical dentinal hypersensitivity is a condition characterized by sharp pain associated with thermal, evaporative, tactile, osmotic or chemical stimuli. This condition depends on dentin exposure, as well as the patency of the dentinal tubules. It is widely accepted that dentinal hypersensitivity is a result of fluid movement within the dentinal tubules, which stimulates nerve endings in the pulp matrix.56-60

Video 4. Fluid Movement in Tubules.

Tooth hypersensitivity is a condition patients commonly report to their dental professional; thus, it is a segment of the dentifrice market heavily influenced by professional recommendations. It has been reported that up to 57% of the adult population suffers from this condition.56,61

A segment of the fluoride dentifrice market has emerged that specifically addresses the needs of patients suffering from sensitive teeth. One of the first dentifrice products to enter this segment of the market was Sensodyne®, which was introduced in 1961. More recently, tooth sensitivity has become a very dynamic area, as several new products have entered the market with proprietary ingredients to treat dentinal hypersensitivity.

As noted above, exposure of dentinal tubules to external stimuli is a common cause of tooth sensitivity. Dentinal hypersensitivity is generally treated in one of two ways.

  1. Chemical desensitization of the tooth nerve endings (nerve depolarization).
  2. Tubule occluding agents or barriers to reduce dentin permeability.

Antihypersensitivity treatments with these mechanisms are described below.