Press Releases

Exploring the Activation and Sensitization of Trigeminal Neurons by Bacteria

Alexandria, VA – A symposium exploring how bacteria activate and sensitize trigeminal neurons via pattern recognition receptor and transient receptor potential signaling pathways was featured at the 52nd Annual Meeting & Exhibition of the AADOCR, to be held in conjunction with the 47th Annual Meeting of the CADR. The AADOCR/CADR Annual Meeting & Exhibition took place at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland on March 15-18, 2023.

Pain is an important driver of dental care utilization and often the most feared and important outcome of dental procedures to patients. There is mounting evidence that nociceptors, the neurons that transmit pain signaling to the central nervous system upon detection of potential tissue damage, also critically modulate the progression of pathogen mediated diseases. Sensory neurons can directly detect multiple bacterial products, including LPS, flagellin, and N-formylated peptides. These bacterial products activate and sensitize sensory neurons, causing pain and the release of neuropeptides, which in turn have a profound effect on the immune response by enhancing or inhibiting immune cell recruitment and activation. Ultimately, the pathogen mediated neuronal activity can either enhance or inhibit the disease progression depending upon the unique environment of the affected tissue. As multiple dental diseases are pathogen mediated, understanding pathogen elicited sensory neuron signaling is critical to better understand the pathophysiology of such conditions. 

This symposium presented research relating to the mechanisms by which bacteria activate and sensitize trigeminal neurons through pattern recognition receptor and transient receptor potential signaling pathways. It also presented recent research demonstrating how nociceptor modulation of pathogen mediated inflammatory processes can occur in the dental pulp and periodontal tissues. Opportunities for future novel therapeutic approaches that harness neuronal pathways to modulate pathogen mediated oral diseases were also discussed. 

The symposium featured the presentations, “Sensory Neuron-Immune Interactions and Relevance to Dental Diseases” by Jennifer Gibbs of the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine, “The Neuropeptide CGRP Modulates Inflammation During Pulpitis” by Ozge Erdogan of the Harvard University School of Dental Medicine, “Nociceptor Modulation of Periodontitis” by Man-Kyo Chung of the University of Maryland, and “STING Signaling in Peripheral Sensory Neurons in Inflammation and Host Defense” by Christopher Donnelly of Duke University.

The symposium, “Sensory Neurons: Detecting Danger and Fighting Infection in the Oral Cavity,” took place on Thursday, March 16th, 2023, at 2 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-07:00).

The American Association for Dental, Oral, and Craniofacial Research (AADOCR) is a nonprofit organization with a mission to drive dental, oral, and craniofacial research to advance health and well-being. AADOCR represents the individual scientists, clinician-scientists, dental professionals, and students based in academic, government, non-profit and private-sector institutions who share our mission. AADOCR is the largest division of the International Association for Dental Research. Learn more at