To elucidate the nature of dentine hypersensitivity, the effects of plaque control on the patency and occlusion of dentinal tubules were investigated systematically in situ using human dentine slabs embedded in partial dentures. The dentine slabs were divided into three groups. In group I, the dentine slabs were kept in an oral cavity without plaque control. In group II, plaque was removed mechanically by brushing. Plaque control was carried out chemically using chlorhexidine in group III. After being kept in the oral cavities for 1, 2 and 3 weeks, the slabs were removed from the partial denture, followed by SEM observation to determine the morphological changes of the dentinal tubules. When no attempt was made to remove plaque, the diameter of tubule orifices increased to 390% of the original values within 3 weeks. In contrast, dentinal tubules were found to be occluded, i.e. the tubule orifices became <20% of the original value within 1 week when plaque control efforts were made, using either method of plaque control. We conclude that plaque control plays one of the key roles in the patency versus occlusion of dentinal tubules, and thus in the aetiology and natural reparative process of dentine hypersensitivity.
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