My Blog

Posts for tag: sensitive teeth

By Arrington Family Dental
February 13, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sensitive teeth  
DontPutOffGettingTreatmentforYourSensitiveTeeth

While out with friends one evening, you take a bite of ice cream. Suddenly, pain shoots through your teeth. It only lasts a second, but it's enough to ruin your good time.

This could be tooth sensitivity, a painful reaction to hot or cold foods. It often occurs when the enamel in prolonged contact with acid has eroded. Acid is a waste product of bacteria found in plaque, a thin film of food particles that builds up on tooth surfaces due to inadequate brushing and flossing. Enamel normally mutes temperature or pressure sensation to the underlying dentin layer and nerves. Loss of enamel exposes the dentin and nerves to the full brunt of these sensations.

Sensitivity can also happen if your gums have shrunk back (receded) and exposed dentin below the enamel. Although over-aggressive brushing can often cause it, gum recession also happens because of periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection also arising from plaque.

The best way to avoid tooth sensitivity is to prevent enamel erosion or gum recession in the first place. Removing accumulated plaque through daily brushing and flossing is perhaps the most essential part of prevention, along with a nutritious diet low in sugar and regular dental cleanings and checkups.

It's also important to treat any dental disease that does occur despite your best hygiene efforts. Gum disease requires aggressive plaque removal, especially around the roots. While receded gum tissues often rebound after treatment, you may need gum grafting surgery to restore lost tissues if the gums have receded more deeply. For enamel erosion and any resulting decay you may need a filling, root canal treatment or a crown, depending on the depth and volume of structural damage.

While you're being treated you can also gain some relief from ongoing sensitivity by using a toothpaste with potassium nitrate or similar products designed to desensitize the dentin. Fluoride, a known enamel strengthener, has also been shown to reduce sensitivity. We can apply topical fluoride directly to tooth surfaces in the form of gels or varnishes.

Don't suffer through bouts of tooth sensitivity any more than you must. Visit us for a full exam and begin treatment to relieve you of the pain and stress.

If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of tooth sensitivity, 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.”

WhatsattheRootofToothSensitivity

In a healthy tooth, a coating of enamel protects the crown — the part above the gum line — and a layer of cementum protects the tooth root below the gum line. Enamel and cementum are inert (nonliving) substances that do not respond to stimuli such as heat or cold; however, dentin, the living tissue below them, does. Dentin contains numerous microscopic tubules that readily transmit stimuli toward the nerve-filled center of the tooth (pulp tissue). Loss of protective enamel or cementum leaves dentin exposed to all sorts of stimuli in the oral environment, which can trigger “dentinal hypersensitivity” — anything from a mild twinge to shooting pain.

Fortunately, there are many options for treating hypersensitivity. The key to selecting the most appropriate one(s) is determining the cause(s). Some of the more common reasons for sensitivity due to dentin exposure include:

  • Enamel erosion caused by an “acid attack” related to external (extrinsic) causes — i.e., consumption of acidic beverages/food — or internal causes — i.e., regurgitation of stomach acids due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia
  • Using an overly abrasive brush or toothpaste, brushing incorrectly or too frequently, or brushing too soon after an “acid attack” — all of which can result in a loss of enamel
  • Tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)
  • Tooth fracture or chipping: tooth grinding (bruxism) is a common cause
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum recession, due to age or improper tooth brushing, that exposes the tooth root
  • Gum disease, which can result in gum recession

Sensitivity can also occur following a procedure like treating a cavity. Normally it subsides within a couple of weeks or so but if it continues there may be another underlying cause.

Whatever the source(s) of your discomfort, our office can get to the bottom of it and recommend an effective course of treatment that meets your personal needs!

If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, 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 “Sensitive Teeth.”