Molecular basis of dental sensitivity: The odontoblasts are multisensory cells and express multifunctional ion channels

Ann Anat. 2018 Jan:215:20-29. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2017.09.006. Epub 2017 Sep 24.


Odontoblasts are the dental pulp cells responsible for the formation of dentin. In addition, accumulating data strongly suggest that they can also function as sensory cells that mediate the early steps of mechanical, thermic, and chemical dental sensitivity. This assumption is based on the expression of different families of ion channels involved in various modalities of sensitivity and the release of putative neurotransmitters in response to odontoblast stimulation which are able to act on pulp sensory nerve fibers. This review updates the current knowledge on the expression of transient-potential receptor ion channels and acid-sensing ion channels in odontoblasts, nerve fibers innervating them and trigeminal sensory neurons, as well as in pulp cells. Moreover, the innervation of the odontoblasts and the interrelationship been odontoblasts and nerve fibers mediated by neurotransmitters was also revisited. These data might provide the basis for novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of dentin sensibility and/or dental pain.

Keywords: ATP; ATP receptors; Acid-sensing ion channels; Dentin sensitivity; Odontoblasts; Transient-receptor potential ion channels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dental Pulp / innervation*
  • Dentin Sensitivity / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Odontoblasts / physiology*
  • Sensory Receptor Cells
  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels


  • TRPV Cation Channels
  • Transient Receptor Potential Channels