This study was designed to determine whether painful electrical stimulation of the tooth pulp induces centrally mediated reflex vasomotor changes in human gingiva and whether the sympathetic nervous system is involved in the vasomotor responses. Dynamic changes in maxillary gingival blood flow (GBF) following painful electrical stimulation of the mandibular lateral incisor were investigated, by means of laser-Doppler flowmetry, in both healthy volunteers and patients undergoing sympathetic blockade for hyperhidrosis. Increases in GBF were observed in both healthy volunteers and patients on the ipsilateral side without an increase in systemic blood pressure, but the evoked GBF increase disappeared when pain sensation was abolished by local anesthetization with 2% xylocaine solution. The vasodilator responses did not differ in amplitude between before and after the sympathectomy. These results suggest that painful tooth stimulation evokes centrally mediated reflex vasodilation, presumably via parasympathetic efferent fibers, in the human gingiva and that sympathetic vasomotor mechanisms are not involved in these responses.
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