Study reveals new function for odontoblasts

A report in Science Advances has discovered that odontoblasts are responsible for sensing cold, a finding which researchers say could play a role in the inhibition of dental pain.

The discovery is important, notes an article in News Medical: Life Sciences, because it provides insight into an area of dental study which comes with certain challenges.

“Tooth pain has been notoriously difficult to study. A tooth’s hardness makes it a challenging tissue to study and inducing tooth pain in humans requires opening the tooth.”

Experiments conducted on anaesthetised genetically altered mice who did not possess the TRCP5 gene which encodes the protein TRCP5 which expresses itself in nerves spread across the body.

While normal mice with dental injuries react to their pain by consuming considerably elevated quantities of sugary water, their altered counterparts without TRCP5 do not with researchers finding “that the mice with injured teeth did not manifest the increased drinking behavior and behaved like mice without dental injuries.”

Commenting on this finding, Jochen Lennerz, MD, PhD, Study Senior Author and Pathologist, Medical Director of the Center for Integrated Diagnostics, Massachusetts General Hospital, said this:

“We now have definitive proof that the temperature sensor TRCP5 transmits cold via the odontoblast and triggers nerves to fire, creating pain and cold hypersensitivity. This cold sensitivity may be the body’s way to protect a damaged tooth from additional injury.”

News Medical: Life Sciences notes that “the findings of this study may lead to more potent applications to treat teeth that are hypersensitive to cold [and] there may be novel applications for eugenol, such as treating patients systemically for extreme cold sensitivity from chemotherapy.”

For more on this study, go to “Researchers identify new targets for minimizing tooth sensitivity to cold.”

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