Causes and mechanisms

Scanning electron microscope image of exposed dentine tubules

Explore the causes of dentine hypersensitivity

Video player requires JavaScript enabled. You can download this video here: https://videos.gskstatic.com/consumer/experts/20180712_11 Sensodyne_ Video_Rapid Relief Nitro_Non_Branded_Short_Optimised.mp4

The hydrodynamic theory of dentine hypersensitivity

Brännström’s hydrodynamic theory is currently the most commonly accepted theory of how dentine hypersensitivity arises:1–4

  • Dentine hypersensitivity arises when tubules found within dentine become exposed, most commonly caused by gingival recession or enamel wear
  • Once exposed, these tubules may come into contact with stimuli, which can induce the movement of fluid within the tubules
  • Such movement can trigger nerves in the pulp, which may induce a short, sharp pain
  • Causes of exposed dentine

    How dentine tubules become exposed

    Dentine tubules become exposed by gingival recession, due to:3,5

    • Periodontal diseases
    • An over-vigorous brushing technique

    Enamel wear exposes dentine tubules through one or more of the following:6

    • Erosion, commonly caused by dietary acids or oesophageal reflux
    • Abrasion, i.e. enamel and dentine loss from excessive toothbrushing and/or other habits
    • Attrition (rarely), brought about by tooth grinding
  • Dentine hypersensitivity triggers  

    Exposure of dentine tubules allows fluids within the tubules to move, which can be triggered by multiple types of stimuli.3,4

    Cold water; hot coffee

    1. Thermal stimuli

    Cold (more likely), hot

    Toothbrush with paste

    2. Tactile stimuli

    Toothbrushing

    Chocolate

    3. Osmotic stimuli

    Sugary foods and drinks

  • Tooth cross section

    Nerve stimulation and pain

    It is theorised that the rapid movement of fluid within dentine tubules triggered by external stimuli can stimulate the nerves within the dental pulp, causing pain.4

Sensodyne – the #1 dentist-recommended toothpaste brand for sensitive teeth

Family Icon

Impact on patient quality of life

Find out about the impact dentine hypersensitivity has on patients’ daily lives.

Find Out More

Tooth with magnifying glass icon

Diagnosis

Explore an overview of diagnosing dentine hypersensitivity.

Find Out More

Dentist Icon

Management

Explore an overview of dentine hypersensitivity management.

Find Out More

Tooth Icon

Dentine hypersensitivity

Find out more about dentine hypersensitivity.

Find Out More

Sensodyne logo

The Sensodyne range

Find out how the Sensodyne range can help your patients.

Find Out More

Patient resources icon

Patient care resources

Download resources for your patients.

Find Out More