The effectiveness of a 5% potassium nitrate dentifrice as a daily home treatment for dentinal hypersensitivity was evaluated in a double-blind study in 36 Japanese subjects who complained of cold and/or tactile hypersensitivity. The subjects were divided into 2 groups, with 18 being given a 5% potassium nitrate dentifrice (treated group) and the other 18 a vehicle paste (control group). Both groups were instructed to brush their teeth 2 x a day. The hypersensitivity levels of the affected teeth were assessed by 2 stimuli, one tactile and the other cold air, and by the perception of pain. The results of all 3 assessment methods indicated that the potassium nitrate dentifrice significantly decreased the level of hypersensitivity at weeks 4, 8, and 12. In the treated group, a rapid decrease of positive scores for both the cold air stimulus and the subjective symptoms appeared from week 2. Although a significant decrease of the assessment score was also observed in the control group, the reduction rate of the score was much greater in the treated group by all 3 assessment methods at weeks 4, 8, and 12. Complete relief of subjective symptoms throughout the 12 weeks' examination was noted in 67% of the subjects in the treated group, but in only 6% in the control group. These results suggest the usefulness of a 5% potassium nitrate dentifrice in Japanese patients with dentinal hypersensitivity.