Tooth sensitivity is an uncomfortable problem for at least 40 million Americans, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. Tooth sensitivity is the term used to describe a temporary toothache that consistently happens every time your teeth are exposed to hot, cold, or sweet. In some cases, acidic and sticky foods can also produce the same unpleasant sensations. The pain associated with tooth sensitivity generally only lasts as long as the tooth is exposed, however prolonged sensitivity can last even after the source of exposure has been removed.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the enamel layer of your teeth is damaged, decayed, or worn and is no longer able to effectively protect the underlying layers. Directly underneath the tooth enamel is the dentin layer, which is porous and contains microscopic canals that lead to the inside of the tooth. When stimuli is able to reach the dentin layer, it travels through these canals and reaches the inside of the tooth, which contains the tooth nerve. The pain associated with tooth sensitivity is ultimately caused by stimuli irritating the nerve.
Before trying to remedy tooth sensitivity on your own, it is important to have a dental exam to determine the cause of your sensitivity. This is because tooth sensitivity can be a symptom of a more serious dental problem such as: cavities, fractured tooth, a filling in need of replacement, gum disease, or an exposed tooth root. In these cases, the best way to eliminate tooth sensitivity is to seek treatment for the underlying condition causing the sensitivity.
However, there may be other cases where your teeth are just more sensitive to stimuli than the average person. This usually happens when you have thin or worn enamel. Luckily, there are ways to treat tooth sensitivity caused by thin enamel, as well as ways to prevent enamel wear. These include:
When you have thin or worn enamel, one of the best things you can do is to have regular fluoride treatments. When applied to the surface of your teeth, fluoride helps to strengthen your tooth enamel. Although enamel cannot grow back once it has worn away or been decayed, fluoride treatments help to protect and strengthen your existing enamel in order to minimize tooth sensitivity.
Desensitizing toothpaste is specially formulated for people who have sensitive teeth. For starters, desensitizing toothpaste does not contain ingredients, such as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which can irritate sensitive teeth and gums. Desensitizing toothpaste also contains special ingredients that block the dentin canals to prevent stimuli from reaching the nerve and causing pain. The two most commonly used ingredients in desensitizing toothpaste are potassium nitrate and stannous fluoride.
Try Cosmetic Dentistry
Believe it or not, certain cosmetic dental treatments can decrease tooth sensitivity. For example, a dental inlay or onlay can be placed on the chewing surface of your tooth to replace worn enamel. Dental bonding can also be used to build up a protective layer in areas where the enamel may be excessively thin or worn. Veneers are another common treatment used for tooth sensitivity, since they cover the entire front surface of visible teeth and act as a shield. Crowns also act like a shield, but they encapsulate the entire tooth surface making them ideal for the back of the mouth.
Get a Gum Graft
Some cases of tooth sensitivity occur when the gums have receded and exposed the underlying tooth roots. Since tooth roots don’t contain enamel because they are normally protected by the gums, exposed tooth roots almost always cause tooth sensitivity. Having a gum graft places new gum tissue to protect the root, which will alleviate and prevent tooth sensitivity.
Dr. Sadati possesses extensive experience in all aspects of advanced restorative dentistry, with an emphasis in cosmetic and implant dentistry. He has attained Accredited Fellow status in the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD), the most rigorous, demanding credentialing process in the world. He is the only AACD Accredited Fellow in South Florida.