The effects of outward forced convective flow on inward diffusion of potassium across human dentin

David H. Pashley, Kelli Agee, Yi Zhang, Anita Smith, Edward A. Tavss, Robert J. Gambogi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: To measure the inward flux of potassium across human dentin disks, in vitro, in the absence and then in the presence of a simulated pulpal pressure (PP), before and after brushing with two desensitizing dentifrices. Materials and Methods: Dentin discs were made from extracted unerupted third molars and etched with 6% citric acid to remove the smear layers. The hydraulic conductance (Lp or outward fluid movement) of the discs was measured before and after brushing for 2 minutes with two desensitizing dentifrices, Colgate Sensitive Maximum Strength or Sensodyne Fresh Mint, both dentifrices containing 5% potassium nitrate. The potassium flux was measured at a pressure of 0 cm H2O, and a simulated pulpal pressure of 20 cm H2O. Results: The results showed the Colgate-brushed specimens had lower Lp (P< 0.05) than specimens brushed with Sensodyne or with saline. The Colgate-brushed specimens had a corresponding lower K+ flux, at a PP = 0 cm H2O, than specimens brushed with saline, but were not significantly different than specimens brushed with Sensodyne dentifrice. However, when the pressure was increased from 0 to 20 cm H2O, to simulate outward dentin fluid pressure, there were significant decreases in K+ flux across all three treatment groups, but the K+ flux of the Colgate-brushed specimens were affected the least, resulting in the Colgate-brushed specimens having significantly (P < 0.05) greater K+ fluxes than the saline or Sensodyne dentifrice-brushed groups. The magnitude of reduction in K+ flux in going from 0 cm H2O to 20 cm H2O was demonstrated to be linearly related to the magnitude of the Lp of the brushed specimens. Hence, a small Lp corresponded to a small reduction in K+ flux, and a correspondingly large K+ flux at 20 cm H2O. An explanation of this phenomenon is that a decrease in the Lp of dentin, produced by brushing, corresponds to a decreased outward dentin fluid flow. This lowers the outward K+ convective flow and also lowers the inward K+ diffusion. However, since the decrease of the outward K+ convective flow is greater than the decrease of the inward K+ diffusion, and the net flux is the algebraic sum of these two terms, the result is greater net inward K+ flux through the dentin. Therefore, the Colgate-brushed specimens, which exhibited the lowest Lp, provided the greatest inward K+ flux at simulated dentin fluid pressure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-261
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of dentistry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dentistry(all)


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