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Papers of the Week

Papers: 18 May 2024 - 24 May 2024

2024 May 12



Intradental mechano-nociceptors serve as sentinels that prevent tooth damage.


Ronan EA, Gandhi AR, Constantinescu BSC, Uchima Koecklin KH, Guenther ME, Nagel M, Blumberg KJ, Stern T, Li P, Emrick JJ


Pain is the anticipated output of the trigeminal sensory neurons that innervate the tooth’s vital interior ; however, the contribution of intradental neurons to healthy tooth sensation has yet to be defined. Here, we employ in vivo Ca imaging to identify and define a population of myelinated high-threshold mechanoreceptors (intradental HTMRs) that detect superficial structural damage of the tooth and initiate jaw opening to protect teeth from damage. Intradental HTMRs remain inactive when direct forces are applied to the intact tooth but become responsive to forces when the structural integrity of the tooth is compromised, and the dentin or pulp is exposed. Their terminals collectively innervate the inner dentin through overlapping receptive fields, allowing them to monitor the superficial structures of the tooth. Indeed, intradental HTMRs detect superficial enamel damage and encode its degree, and their responses persist in the absence of either PIEZO2 or Na 1.8 . Optogenetic activation of intradental HTMRs triggers a rapid, jaw opening reflex via contraction of the digastric muscle. Taken together, our data indicate that intradental HTMRs serve as sentinels that guard against mechanical threats to the tooth, and their activation results in physical tooth separation to minimize irreversible structural damage. Our work provides a new perspective on the role of intradental neurons as protective rather than exclusively pain-inducing and illustrates additional diversity in the functions of interoreceptors.