The dentine disc has been extensively used as a model for assessing potential desensitizing agents in vitro by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Although the disc provides a readily available and reproducible test substrate, this paper addresses the problems associated with this model such as the natural variation in the dentine tubules and the resulting differences in surface morphology. At the ultrastructural level the surface of a single etched disc exhibits variations in the size, density, orientation and extent of etching of the cut dentine tubules. In the present study a precise control procedure was designed which allowed greater correlation between test and control surfaces. Two adjacent areas of the same disc were used, one as the test surface, the other the control. Two proprietary desensitizers were examined using this methodology. This study has shown that the dentine disc is a good, reliable model for in vitro screening and testing of potential desensitizing agents, providing such controls are applied.