The hydrodynamic theory of dentin sensitivity states that a stimulus applied at the orifice of exposed dentinal tubules causes movement of tubular fluid which stimulates nerve receptors. The fluid should obey principles of fluid movement through capillary tubes. Any decrease in the functional radius of the dentinal tubules should greatly reduce the rate of fluid flow, thus reducing dentinal sensitivity. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the ability of agents that have been used previously for clinical dentin desensitization to reduce the rate of fluid flow through dentin in vitro. Dentin discs prepared from extracted human third molars were treated with 50% citric acid to remove debris from tubular orifices. After placing the discs in a split chamber device, the rate at which buffer solution could filter across the dentin under 240 cm of water pressure was measured. The occlusal side of the disc was then treated with an agent thought to desensitize dentin to determine if it reduced fluid flow rate. Discs that had more than a 50% reduction in flow rate were examined by scanning electron microscopy to determine if those agents that decreased fluid flow also partially occluded tubular orifices. This in vitro model provided a useful quantitative method for screening a host of preparations that have been used in the past to decrease dentin sensitivity.
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