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According to recent surveys of dental professionals, dentinal hypersensitivity is becoming more prevalent.

According to recent surveys of dental professionals, dentinal hypersensitivity is becoming more prevalent. This is most likely due to increased loss of enamel caused by erosion, in addition to more pronounced recession of the gingival tissue.

Dentinal hypersensitivity greatly affects patients’ quality of life. They have to avoid certain foods and beverages that may trigger a painful response. In the dental office, a routine visit can become an uncomfortable experience for patients with dentinal hypersensitivity, which places undue stress on dental professionals who are trying to provide treatment. Simple procedures, such as scaling and prophylaxis, may be painful. In the end, the pain associated with dentinal hypersensitivity may cause patients to skip future professional oral health care services altogether.

Determining a Diagnosis

The diagnosis of dentinal hypersensitivity often poses a challenge for dental professionals. Patients’ reporting of the cause and their description of the pain can vary, and it is often not enough for clinicians to make a definitive diagnosis. Dental professionals frequently need to perform a thorough exam, as well as additional tests, to determine why the pain is occurring. The exam and test results can help dental professionals develop a definitive diagnosis, which allows for the elimination of other possible causes of pain, such as periodontal diseases, caries, etc, and the implementation of an appropriate treatment plan.

Prevention and Treatment

Once the diagnosis is made, treating and preventing dentinal hypersensitivity can also be a challenge. Many products do not work instantly or they don’t provide long-lasting results. Other products take days—sometimes even weeks—for their effects to be felt by patients. Clinical decisions need to be based on sound evidence. Unfortunately, the literature supporting the various technologies designed to treat and prevent dentinal hypersensitivity can be arduous to navigate, and is often contradictory in its conclusions.

The Colgate-Palmolive Company is pleased to present this supplement prepared by Michael P. Rethman, DDS, MS, on the research relative to the major dentinal hypersensitivity treatment and prevention technologies. Rethman has reviewed the literature and summarized in a concise and easy-to-read manner the state of the science. We hope that readers will be left with an understanding of the advantages and shortcomings of the various treatment technologies available today, and that this information will assist them during clinical decision-making when faced with patients experiencing dentinal hypersensitivity.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. September 2011 Supplement; 9(9): 52.

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