If you have sensitive teeth, you will know it. You might find yourself unable to eat your favorite ice cream or drink your morning Joe or tea because your teeth will hurt. And you’re not alone, because over 40 million Americans also find themselves with dentin hypersensitivity or tooth root sensitivity.
Here’s a not-so-fun fact: if you have gum disease, it could be causing you to experience tooth sensitivity! This can happen when the gum tissue pulls away from your teeth, exposing the tooth root which is acutely sensitive to temperature extremes and acidic or sugary foods and beverages.
But here’s the good news – there’s a lot we can do to help, and it has to do with fortifying your tooth enamel. Teeth can become sensitive if you have a fracture or decay in the tooth enamel, worn down fillings or enamel, or exposed roots, as in the case of gum disease.
Your tooth is comprised of the following tooth layers:
- The “enamel” layer protects your crown, the part of the tooth that sits above the gum line.
- Underneath the gums is a bony tissue called “cementum” which actively protects the tooth root.
- Below the cementum is a hard tissue called “dentin,” which is more dense than bone but less dense than enamel or cementum.
Now, your dentin has little hollow tubes and canals that can become exposed when your first line of defense — the enamel and cementum — wear down. That’s when hot, cold, acidic or sweet foods infiltrate these tubes to reach the nerves inside the tooth. And just like that, you’re feeling pain!
While it’s true that there’s no actual “cure” for tooth sensitivity, there are treatments we can do. First, you’ll want to talk to our exceptional dentist, Dr. James Powell (particularly if you are considering over-the-counter solutions). We have helped many patients safely treat tooth sensitivity with happy results!
You know how we’re always emphasizing prevention when it comes to caring for your smile? Well, this is really vital if you want to prevent tooth problems. Here are some ways you can protect precious tooth enamel:
-Use proper brushing techniques (we are always happy to demonstrate). Pick up 1) a soft-bristled, ADA approved (American Dental Association) toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably and 2) fluoride toothpaste. Hold your toothbrush at an angle and rotate the head in small circles to gently clean each tooth AND the gumline at least twice a day. Don’t forget to floss once a day!
-Watch what you eat. Limit acidic, sugary foods and beverages like citrus fruit and juices, sports drinks, soft drinks and wine, and when you do partake of these, rinse well with water afterward to protect your enamel.
-Healthy living also protects your teeth. Get plenty of sleep and regular exercise to minimize stress levels, because it can cause teeth grinding, even while you sleep.
-If you smoke or chew tobacco, now is a good time to quit. This unhealthy, unattractive habit raises your risk for receding gums and with it, erosion of your tooth enamel.
TREATING TOOTH SENSITIVITY
Now that we’ve covered prevention, we need to talk about treatment if you do find yourself with tooth sensitivity. To do this successfully, we’ll want to find the root cause (okay, okay, pun intended) of your sensitive teeth so we can apply the right solution.
-Start using desensitizing toothpaste as it has compounds which fill in the exposed tubules in the dentin, blocking the sensation from the surface of the tooth to the nerve. Consistently using such a toothpaste will help give you the relief you need.
-Get our in-office fluoride gel treatment. Fluoride is a natural mineral that strengthens tooth enamel by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks and oral bacteria that cause cavities. You can receive an application of fluoride gel at our office.
-Get a surgical gum graft if your tooth sensitivity is caused by gum tissue loss from the tooth root. This involves taking a small amount of gum tissue from elsewhere in your mouth and applying it to the painful site. This will protect any exposed roots and lessen sensitivity.
-Have a root canal if other treatments haven’t helped. Root canal therapy is considered the most successful treatment for giving a patient permanent relief from tooth sensitivity.
If you are tired of avoiding your favorite foods and drinks because of painful tooth sensitivity, please give us a call today or schedule your next visit online with Dr. Powell and find the relief you need for your sensitive teeth!