Posts for tag: sensitive teeth
You may be among the one in three Americans who suffer from the pain of tooth sensitivity. Before attempting treatment, though, we must first identify the cause.
Your teeth are made of layers of different organic tissue. The pulp at the center of the tooth contains nerves that transmit pain or pressure sensation to the brain. The pulp is encased by dentin, a layer of tissue composed of tiny tubules that conduct temperature and pressure changes from outside the tooth to the pulp nerves. The hard outer enamel shell shields the dentin from over-stimulation from these sensations.
There are, however, some instances where the dentin may become exposed and cause sensitivity in the tooth. This can occur when the gum tissue recedes and the root of the tooth is exposed to the oral environment. If the root loses its surface coating (referred to as cementum, a cement-like outer layer around the root surfaces) because of over-aggressive brushing (too hard for too long) or advanced periodontal (gum) disease, sensitivity is often the result.
Another instance is enamel erosion. Although made of the hardest substance in the human body, enamel has one major enemy — acid. A high oral acid level brought on by over-consuming acidic foods and beverages or as a symptom of gastric reflux disease dissolves (de-mineralizes) the enamel’s mineral content. Brushing just after eating actually contributes to de-mineralization because the enamel is in a softer state. It requires forty-five minutes to an hour for your saliva to neutralize acid and restore minerals to the enamel — you may actually be brushing away enamel with this practice.
Once we know the underlying cause, we can use an appropriate method to reduce sensitivity. One way is to reduce nerve sensitivity in the dentin’s tubules or block them altogether. There are several chemical products for both home and dental office application that can reduce sensitivity and encourage enamel re-mineralization (as can the fluoride added to toothpaste). We can also strengthen enamel and provide a mechanical barrier to acid through concentrated fluoride in a varnish applied to tooth and root surfaces. And, life-like restorations like crowns or veneers not only improve the appearance of your teeth, they can also provide coverage for exposed dentin.
If you are experiencing painful sensitivity, make an appointment to visit us. Once we know the source, we can treat the problem and reduce your discomfort.
If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity and how to treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity.”
Tooth sensitivity is an issue that can range from a slight twinge at times to downright excruciating pain. However, before we continue, understanding the cause of tooth sensitivity is helpful to both relieving and treating it.
Tooth enamel is inert in that it has no nerve supply and thus it protects the teeth from temperature and pressure changes — the main cause of sensitivity. Once it is compromised, worn thin, or exposed due to gum recession, it leaves the delicate nerve fibers within the dentin vulnerable to touch, acid, and temperature change. These nerve fibers most often grab your attention when they come in contact with heat, cold, or a “double whammy” combination of both cold and sweet. They also become sensitive to touch — even the bristles of a soft toothbrush can irritate exposed dentin.
As for the causes of tooth sensitivity, one common cause we see is aggressive brushing. Yes, too much brushing can be bad for you! To be more specific, excessive, improper brushing with a sawing back and forth motion can erode the gum tissues, expose, wear, and even groove the dentin. Another cause for sensitivity can be from the destructive process of tooth decay that eats through the enamel and into the dentin.
If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity or have questions about this condition, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Or you can learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”
It can start with a simple twinge or be as severe as excruciating pain. From time to time, we have patients asking questions about tooth sensitivity — what causes it? What can be done about it? For these reasons, we have put together the following list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) so that you can develop a healthy understanding about this painful and often avoidable condition.
What is tooth sensitivity?
The first layer of protection of the teeth is enamel. Enamel is a dense crystalline structure, the hardest substance produced by animals. It is an inert substance that has no nerve supply and thus it protects the teeth from temperature and pressure changes. When it is compromised, worn thin, or exposed due to gum recession, it leaves the dentin exposed and vulnerable. Unlike enamel, dentin is living and has delicate nerve fibers within it.
What triggers tooth sensitivity?
Once dentin is exposed, it can become sensitive. It typically occurs when the dentin comes in contact with heat, cold, or the “double whammy” combination of both cold and sweets. Even the bristles of a soft toothbrush can irritate exposed dentin causing sensitivity and pain.
What can be done to minimize tooth sensitivity?
One of the simplest ways to minimize or prevent sensitivity is by teaching proper brushing techniques so that teeth are cleaned without causing either sensitivity or damage. Brushing too hard is a frequent culprit. Being overzealous can literally cause gum recession, leave dentin, and wear it away leaving it grooved. Another step to minimize sensitivity is to use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Fluoride increases the strength of tooth surfaces and thus makes teeth more resistant to attack by acids and sweets. If severe, we may need to apply a barrier to cover the sensitive areas. These barriers may range from concentrated fluoride varnishes to replacing lost tooth structure with filling materials.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about this topic, read the article “Sensitive Teeth.” Or if you are suffering from this condition, please contact our office to schedule an appointment. During your appointment, we will conduct a thorough examination to ascertain what is causing your sensitivity as well as what we can do to treat and/or prevent future issues.