Dynamics of the pulpo-dentin complex

D. H. Pashley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

303 Scopus citations


Dentin has a relatively high water content due to its tubular structure. Once dentin is exposed, this intratubular water is free to move in response to thermal osmotic, evaporative or tactile stimuli. Fluid shifts across dentin are thought to cause sufficient shear forces on odontoblasts, nerve endings, nearby fibroblasts, and blood vessels to cause significant mechanical irritation, disruption, or damage, depending on the magnitude of the fluid shift. Even in the absence of fluid shifts, the water-filled tubules provide diffusion channels for noxious (i.e., bacterial products) substances which diffuse inward toward the pulp, where they can activate the immune system, provide chemotactic stimuli, cytokine production, and produce pain and pulpal inflammation. Viewed from this perspective, dentin is a poor barrier to external irritants. However pulpal tissues react to these challenges by increasing the activity of nerves, blood vessels the immune system and interstitial fluid turnover, to make the exposed dentin less permeable either physiologically, via increased outward fluid flow, or microscopically by lining tubules with proteins, mineral deposits, or tertiary dentin, thereby enhancing the barrier properties of dentin and providing additional protection to pulpal tissues. These reactions involve dentin and pulp, both in the initiation of the processes and in their resolution. These responses of the dental pulp to irritation of dentin demonstrate the dynamic nature of the pulpo-dentin complex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)104-133
Number of pages30
JournalCritical Reviews in Oral Biology and Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1996


  • Dentin
  • collagen
  • dentin permeability
  • inflammation
  • nerves
  • odontoblasts
  • pulp
  • pulpal blood flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Dentistry(all)


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