How can I reduce tooth sensitivity?

If you experience the following, you may have “sensitive teeth,” which is a very common problem: While eating frozen desserts like ice cream, hot liquids like coffee, or brushing and flossing, you may find your teeth to be sensitive and feel pain that you would like to avoid. Sensitive teeth can be caused by many things including tooth decay, cracks in teeth, the aging of tooth enamel, old and worn out fillings, brushing too hard which exposes the roots, gum recession or previous dental treatment, and periodontal disease (gum disease).

How sensitive teeth develop

pain from sensitive teethWhat you see when you look in the mirror is actually the outermost layer of the teeth, known as the enamel. Under the gum line the outermost layer is a different material called cementum. Underneath the cementum and enamel, there is a layer of material known as dentin. The next layer is the tooth pulp which houses the nerves and blood vessels.

It is the pulp which sends the sensitivity triggers to your brain. Enamel is hard shell and prevents the heat and cold from making it to the pulp. Dentin is not as hard as enamel, and cannot prevent hot and cold temperatures from being felt by the pulp and nerves. This is because the dentin contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When teeth lose enamel, (the outer protective cover,) the dentin is now exposed to food and temperatures. The tubules allow heat, cold and acidic food to transfer sensation to the nerves inside the tooth. This causes hypersensitivity and discomfort when you chew, drink cold or hot liquids, or breathe through your mouth. If you brush your teeth incorrectly or brush too hard, you may injure your gums and expose the tooth roots. Periodontal disease, which is an infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth, could also be responsible. When periodontal disease is not treated, gum tissues become separated from the teeth. The result is spaces called pockets, which create a place for bacteria to breed. Periodontal disease may progress until the bone and other supporting tissues are destroyed, leaving the root surfaces of teeth exposed. This also causes sensitive teeth.

Treatments for sensitive teeth

The treatment will be different depending on what is causing the sensitivity. We may suggest that you try desensitizing toothpaste. However, we will note that you have to typically brush with desensitizing toothpaste several times before you experience sensitivity reduction. There are many products available for this purpose. American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance is a good way to verify that products have met regulations for safety and effectiveness. If the toothpaste does not help your discomfort, we may suggest other treatments that happen in our offices. In-office treatments may include a fluoride gel or special desensitizing agents that we apply to your affected teeth. If these measures do not have the desired result, we may suggest other options like fillings, crowns, an inlay or bonding to correct a flaw or decay that is causing the sensitivity. If gum tissue has been lost at the root (gum recession), we may recommend a surgical gum graft to cover the root, protect the tooth and reduce the sensitivity. In cases where hypersensitivity is severe and cannot be treated in other ways, we may recommend endodontic (root canal) treatment to eliminate the problem. Keep in mind that prevention is always the best form of treatment. If you feel that you have sensitive teeth, please call our office to make an appointment, or conveniently book it at the top of this page. You should understand the reasons for sensitivity and if it is because of other problems such as periodontal disease. Knowing the reasons and taking steps early on may be able to prevent expensive and painful treatments later. Please contact an Absolute Dental location at the top of this page to make an appointment.

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