Purpose: To review major mechanisms of dentine hypersensitivity and the treatment approaches offered.
Materials and Methods: Medline was used to find relevant literature published up to December 2006. Based on abstracts and full articles, studies (in human and in animals) were identified describing mechanisms and management of dentine hypersensitivity. Additional information was also obtained by using manual library search for relevant topics in standard texts and journals of dentistry.
Results: Discussion about the sensitivity of dentine started over a century ago, but it was not until sixty years later that a possible theory was posited. The so-called hydrodynamic theory became popular and was applied to understand the mechanism responsible for hypersensitive dentine. Nevertheless, because of the discrepancies in the pattern by which the dentine responds to various stimuli, several theories of dentine hypersensitivity were proposed which include the hydrodynamic theory, odontoblast transducer mechanism and direct innervation theory. None of these mechanisms was said to fully explain dentine hypersensitivity, thus indicating that as-yet unexplained mechanisms were possibly responsible. A multitude of products were tried and reported to be effective. The efficacy of many was not clearly established and their mechanisms of action were inadequately elucidated. The potential of gene therapy to reduce the burden of dentine hypersensitivity in the future is being examined.
Conclusions: Considerable effort has been made to precisely explain dentine hypersensitivity, but doubt still exists whether any one theory can be applied to understanding this condition. This has led to a constant increase in therapeutic approaches worldwide, but with no conclusive evidence of reliable, successful treatment regimens.
Keywords: dentine hypersensitivity, mechanisms, review, treatments