Is eating ice cream or sipping hot coffee sometimes a painful experience for you? Does brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally? If so, you may have sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth are typically caused by worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth root. Sometimes cavities, fractured teeth, worn fillings, gum disease.
In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects your teeth above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede, resulting hypersensitivity.
Sensitive teeth can be treated. Depending on what is causing the sensitivity, your dentist may recommend:
Desensitizing toothpaste. This contains compounds that can help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
Fluoride gel. An in-office technique to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain.
A crown, inlay or bonding. These may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity.
Surgical gum graft. If gum tissue has been lost from the root,a small amount of gum tissue can be taken from elsewhere in your mouth and attached to the affected site. This will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
Root canal. If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this treatment to eliminate the problem.
Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive-tooth pain. Brush twice a day with a soft bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily. Use gentle strokes and avoid abrasive toothpaste. If you grind or clench your teeth, as your dentist about a mouth guard.
Acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits and carbonated drinks, can erode the enamel over time. Use a straw when drinking acidic liquids to limit contact with your teeth. And drink water after to balance the acid levels in your mouth.
Brian Y. Kuo DDS FAGD
🥶 Ask Dr. Kuo if you have any questions on tooth sensitivity.