Dental thermal pain is a significant health problem in daily life and dentistry. There is a long-standing question regarding the phenomenon that cold stimulation evokes sharper and more shooting pain sensations than hot stimulation. This phenomenon, however, outlives the well-known hydrodynamic theory used to explain dental thermal pain mechanism. Here, we present a mathematical model based on the hypothesis that hot or cold stimulation-induced different directions of dentinal fluid flow and the corresponding odontoblast movements in dentinal microtubules contribute to different dental pain responses. We coupled a computational fluid dynamics model, describing the fluid mechanics in dentinal microtubules, with a modified Hodgkin-Huxley model, describing the discharge behavior of intradental neuron. The simulated results agreed well with existing experimental measurements. We thence demonstrated theoretically that intradental mechano-sensitive nociceptors are not "equally sensitive" to inward (into the pulp) and outward (away from the pulp) fluid flows, providing mechanistic insights into the difference between hot and cold dental pain. The model developed here could enable better diagnosis in endodontics which requires an understanding of pulpal histology, neurology and physiology, as well as their dynamic response to the thermal stimulation used in dental practices.
Lin, M., Luo, Z. Y., Bai, B. F., Xu, F., & Lu, T. J. (2011). Fluid mechanics in dentinal microtubules provides mechanistic insights into the difference between hot and cold dental pain. PloS One, 6(3), e18068. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0018068