The tooth has an unusual sensory system that converts external stimuli predominantly into pain, yet its sensory afferents in teeth demonstrate cytochemical properties of non-nociceptive neurons. This review summarizes the recent knowledge underlying this paradoxical nociception, with a focus on the ion channels involved in tooth pain. The expression of temperature-sensitive ion channels has been extensively investigated because thermal stimulation often evokes tooth pain. However, temperature-sensitive ion channels cannot explain the sudden intense tooth pain evoked by innocuous temperatures or light air puffs, leading to the hydrodynamic theory emphasizing the microfluidic movement within the dentinal tubules for detection by mechanosensitive ion channels. Several mechanosensitive ion channels expressed in dental sensory systems have been suggested as key players in the hydrodynamic theory, and TRPM7, which is abundant in the odontoblasts, and recently discovered PIEZO receptors are promising candidates. Several ligand-gated ion channels and voltage-gated ion channels expressed in dental primary afferent neurons have been discussed in relation to their potential contribution to tooth pain. In addition, in recent years, there has been growing interest in the potential sensory role of odontoblasts; thus, the expression of ion channels in odontoblasts and their potential relation to tooth pain is also reviewed.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.