Cunha-Cruz, J., Wataha, J.C., Heaton, L.J., Rothen, M., Sobieraj, M., Scott, J., et al.

Background: The prevalence of dentin hypersensitivity is uncertain, yet appropriate diagnosis and treatment of dentin hypersensitivity require accurate knowledge regarding its prevalence. The authors conducted a study to estimate the prevalence of dentin hypersensitivity in general dental practices and to investigate associated risk factors.

Methods: The authors conducted a cross-sectional survey of 787 adult patients from 37 general dental practices within the Northwest Practice-based Research Collaborative in Evidence-based DENTistry (PRECEDENT). Dentin hypersensitivity was diagnosed by means of participants’ responses to a question regarding pain in their teeth and gingivae, and practitioner-investigators conducted a clinical examination to rule out alternative causes of pain. Participants recorded their pain level on a visual analogue scale and the Seattle Scales in response to a one-second air blast. The authors used generalised estimating equation log-linear models to estimate the prevalence and the prevalence ratios.

Results: The prevalence of dentin hypersensitivity was 12.3%; patients with hypersensitivity had, on average, 3.5 hypersensitive teeth. The prevalence of dentin hypersensitivity was higher among 18- to 44-year-olds than among participants 65 years or older; it was also higher in women than in men, in participants with gingival recession than in those without gingival recession, and in participants who underwent at-home tooth whitening than in those who did not. Hypersensitivity was not associated with obvious occlusal trauma, noncarious cervical lesions or aggressive toothbrushing habits.

Conclusions: One in eight participants from general practices had dentin hypersensitivity, which was a chronic condition causing intermittent, low-level pain. Patients with hypersensitivity were more likely to be younger, to be female, and to have a high prevalence of gingival recession and at-home tooth whitening.

Practical implications: Given dentin hypersensitivity’s prevalence, clinicians should diagnose it only after investigating all other possible sources of pain.

Journal of the American Dental Association 2013; 144 (3).