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The protein that explains why teeth hurt so much in the cold

If eating something very cold causes excruciating pain in your teeth, a team of scientists may have a detailed explanation of the reason for the problem.

A group of researchers identified the cells and signals in cold-sensitive teeth that detect large drops in temperature and trigger pain.

People with cavities are more prone to these sensations because their teeth are more exposed.

The results obtained by the team, published in the magazine Science Advances, provide information for new treatments, such as toothpastes, patches or gum, say the authors of the research.

“Once you have a molecule to target, there is the possibility of treatment,” explained Katharina Zimmermann, lead researcher on the study.

This molecule is the cold-sensitive protein TRPC5.

Exposed dentin

Zimmermann’s team from the Friedrich-Alexander University in Erlangen-Nürnberg in Germany traced the location of this protein to a specific type of dental cell: the odontoblast, which resides between the soft inner pulp and the hard outer layer of the teeth. teeth, composed of dentin and enamel.

Enamel has no sensations, unlike the innermost layer, dentin. This connects to the pulp, which contains nerve cells.

If the dentin is exposed, as a result of cavities or gum disease, for example, stimuli such as temperature or certain fluids will cause pain.

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The researchers observed how tooth pain arose in mice and humans, while recording what was happening in the cells and nerves of the teeth when they came into contact with an ice-cold solution, details a statement from the Medical Institute. Howard Hughes (HHMI), USA, published in late March.

“In normal mice, this icy contact caused nervous activity, which indicated that the teeth were feeling the cold. This was not the case in mice (genetically modified) that lacked TRPC5 or in teeth treated with a chemical” that blocked TRPC5. says the HHMI.

“That was a key clue” that the TRPC5 could detect cold., according to HHMI.

In addition to detecting it, TRPC5 transmits cold and causes nerves to activate and cause pain, says Jochen Lennerz, one of the study authors and medical director of the Center for Integrated Diagnostics at Massachusetts General Hospital in the United States.

For Lennerz, “this sensitivity to cold could be the body’s way of protecting the tooth from further damage,” the researcher told The Harvard Gazette.

As Katharina Zimmermann told BBC Health Editor Michelle Roberts, “We found a higher amount of TRPC5 in human teeth with cavities.”

“Therefore, we believe that designing a TRPC5 blocker that can be applied to the teeth via bands or chewing gum would probably be a great help in treating tooth pain or dentin hypersensitivity.”

Home remedies

A common home remedy, clove oil, contains a chemical called eugenol, which blocks TRPC5 channels.

However, lScientists do not recommend treatments homemade.

People suffering from a worrisome toothache should see a dentist, they emphasize.

Professor Damien Walmsley of the British Dental Association believes that blocking pain could provide temporary relief, although it is vital to treat and prevent the cause.

Brushing Your Teeth Regularly Could Stop Diseaseit is of the gums and teeth, he pointed.

“The research is interesting, but we cannot ignore the underlying causes of tooth sensitivity, or people’s perception of pain. Dentists can treat the cause by removing cavities and recommend dentifrices for sensitive teeth,” Walmsley said.

Walmsley also said that in the future, TRPC5 blocking agents could be included in toothpastes and dental products to prevent pain caused by sensitivity.

Professor Zimmermann’s team did not receive any commercial funding for this study. It was funded by the German Research Foundation and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in the United States.

Caries risk

Cavities occur when a tooth’s enamel and dentin are softened by acid attacks after eating or drinking anything that contains sugars, says the BDA.

Over time, the acid creates cavities in the tooth.

The risk of tooth decay increases depending on the frequency with which one ingests sugary or acidic foods or drinks, so it is better to limit your consumption at meal times.

* This article is an expanded translation of a note in English by Michelle Roberts, BBC News Online Health editor, which you can read here.

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