Does the thought of eating an icecream cone or drinking ice cold water fill you with dread? If so, you may have a common dental problem known as “sensitive teeth”.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, about 40 million people in the U.S experience tooth sensitivity on a daily basis. That painful “zinging” sensation is hard to ignore, especially when it happens so frequently.
Fortunately, sensitive teeth is an issue that can be treated with a few different strategies. You don’t need to live the rest of your life avoiding all hot and cold foods!
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Every tooth in your mouth is protected by a strong white substance called enamel. Sensitive teeth develop that enamel is worn down to reveal the layers underneath: dentin and cementum.
The dentin layer of each tooth contains microscopic tubes and canals filled with nerve endings. In a healthy mouth, enamel shields the dentin and protects it from being exposed.
However, when enamel wears down or gum tissue recedes, the dentin and cementum become exposed. This makes it easy for hot and cold foods to aggravate nerves and cells inside the dentin. when the layer of a tooth called the dentin, which sits under the enamel, becomes exposed.
Exposed nerves respond to these “invaders” with sharp, painful sensations known as sensitivity. This is why it’s more painful to eat ice cream or hot soup than crackers.
Sensitive teeth most commonly develop as the result of these factors:
- Harsh or forceful brushing
- Tooth grinding (bruxism)
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Enamel erosion from sugary and acidic foods
- Cracked teeth
Proper oral hygiene and regular dental appointments are both essential to prevent sensitive teeth. But if you are already suffering from tooth sensitivity, it’s important to understand which treatment options are available to restore your comfort.
Treatment #1: Desensitizing Toothpaste
Desensitizing toothpaste is an easy solution for minor tooth sensitivity issues. This type of toothpaste contains active agents like potassium, fluoride, and strontium salts.
Potassium is used to decrease the flow of fluid through tubules in the dentin. It clogs the tubules to decrease the activity of dental sensory nerves. When used twice a day for consecutive months, desensitizing toothpaste can effectively reduce the number of sensitivity signals that reach the brain.
Fluoride, meanwhile, is added to desensitizing toothpaste to strengthen tooth enamel with vital minerals. Enamel losses minerals like calcium and phosphate during the process of decay. Once these minerals are restored, enamel becomes stronger and can better protect the dentin.
Be sure to select a desensitizing toothpaste with the ADA Seal of Acceptance. That seal is proof that the toothpaste meets ADA criteria for safety and effectiveness.
Treatment #2: Fluoride
If desensitizing toothpaste isn’t strong enough to address your sensitive teeth, your dentist may recommend professional fluoride treatments. This involves applying a potent fluoride gel to your teeth to protect against future decay and restore damaged enamel with essential minerals.
In-office fluoride treatment supplements the fluoride that’s already in your toothpaste. Your dentist may also provide prescription fluoride and custom trays for home treatment.
Treatment #3: White Fillings or Crowns
If your tooth sensitivity is caused by a cracked or decaying tooth, a filling or crown may be the best treatment. Sensitivity often occurs when damage to a tooth causes the nerves to become exposed. A white filling or crown can easily recover the roots and restore your damaged tooth back to health.
Treatment #4: Root Canal
The root canal is a hollow section of tooth that holds blood vessels, nerves, and pulp cells. Root canal therapy is used when the root canal experiences injury or decay. It’s the only way to prevent extraction and protect the natural structure of a damaged tooth.
The symptoms of a damaged root canal are easy to identify. Since the nerves held in the root canal area are responsible for creating hot and cold sensations, your sensitivity to hot and cold becomes much worse if nerves in the root canal become exposed. A root canal procedure is the best and most efficient way to eliminate painful sensitivity and save the tooth.
Root canal therapy involves the removal of the infected pulp. Thanks to anesthesia, it doesn’t hurt at all. In fact, a root canal helps you feel better almost immediately because it eliminates the source of your tooth pain, discomfort, and sensitivity.
How to Get Help with Your Sensitive Teeth
Don’t suffer the pain and discomfort of sensitive teeth alone. The team at Arvada Dental Center in Arvada, CO is here to provide a world class dental care for your unique needs. Dr. Bennett and his team provide carefully customized care with the latest technology and advanced solutions.
Call (303) 421-2337 today to schedule your appointment and make sensitive teeth a thing of the past.