Archive for the ‘sensitive teeth’ Tag

Dental Bites: Tooth Sensitivity Part 2

Last time we discussed the anatomy of sensitive teeth and the various causes.  Now we will discuss what can be done to minimize or eliminate tooth sensitivity.  There are several at-home remedies that you can try, but before you start, be sure to discuss your concerns with your dentist first!

What YOU can do:

The first (and most important) thing you can do to reduce tooth sensitivity is to maintain good oral hygiene.  We already know that plaque buildup is a cause of tooth sensitivity, so be diligent to brush and floss your teeth daily to prevent plaque from building up.  Using a soft bristled brush when you clean your teeth will help minimize abrasion of the enamel and gums.

When brushing your teeth with that soft bristled brush, you could try using a desensitizing toothpaste.  You might need to try several different brands before you find one that works for you.  You can even apply a thin layer of fluoridated toothpaste to the root of the sensitive teeth if you are experiencing sensitivity caused by root exposure.  Doing this right before you go to bed will allow time for the tooth structure to absorb fluoride helping to reduce sensitivity.

Stay away from acidic foods!  Acid (specifically citric acid) is well known for dissolving tooth enamel over time.  Staying away from that morning grapefruit, avoiding lemons and lemonade and other sources of edible acids will help your teeth keep what enamel is still intact.  Once enamel is gone… it’s gone… leaving your dentin exposed to stimuli that trigger sensitivity reactions.

Grinding your teeth at night is a cause of tooth sensitivity as it wears away at the hard enamel layer and can also cause tiny cracks in the structure of the teeth.  If you find yourself waking up with sore jaw muscles and sensitive teeth from grinding, it would be a great idea to consider a night-guard.  This night-time use mouth-guard will protect your teeth from being exposed to the upwards of 120 pounds of biting and grinding pressure that the masseter muscle can generate.

And of course, see your dentist on a regular basis and keep an ongoing discussion regarding your tooth sensitivity.  There are tooth sensitivity solutions that only your dentist can prescribe and perform which leads us into our next section!

What Your DENTIST Can Do:

There are a few topical treatments that your dentist can recommend if it is appropriate for your situation.  Fluoride varnishes and dentin sealers can be applied to exposed root surfaces, giving another layer of protection between the tooth and the environment.

More permanent solutions comprise of composite bonding applications, fillings, root canals or crowns.  Composite bonding can be used to cover exposed root surfaces, or replace an area of decay that has let to tooth sensitivity.  If the tooth is cracked or there is a large amount of decay leading to tooth sensitivity, it might be necessary for a root canal and crown placement.  A root canal will deaden the nerve in the tooth leaving it unable to be affected by stimuli such as hot or cold.  The porcelain fused to metal crown will provide strength to the tooth while it protects it from further damage and stimuli that leads to sensitivity.

As you  discuss your sensitivity with your dentist, you will be able to develop a treatment plan that is ideal for your particular case.  Just remember to describe your discomfort as specifically as possible to help with your diagnosis and treatment!


Dental Bites: Tooth Sensitivity

It has happened to everyone:  you take a sip of ice cold tea or lemonade and your teeth give you a mild electric shock, making you take a small gasp from the suddenness of the pain.   It ranges from mild and occasional, to daily and severe:  it is tooth sensitivity.  Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints from patients, effecting almost 40 million Americans from one degree or another.  We will be exploring the Why and How of Tooth Sensitivity in our Dental Bite.

The Anatomy of Tooth Sensitivity

Anatomy of a ToothThe tooth structure is made of several layers:  enamel, dentin, pulp, nerves & blood vessels.  Within the dentin layer are tiny tubes that carry fluid between the enamel and the pulp.  Sensitivity is often triggered when the fluid is exposed to extreme temperatures or other stimuli and the impulse is transmitted through the tubes to the nerves within the pulp.  The stimulation of the nerves is what most people characterize as a sensitivity reaction when they drink something hot or cold,  eat sweet things, or even breathe in cold air.

What are the causes?

Tooth sensitivity can be a symptom of a larger problem which is why it is so important that you keep your doctor informed of when you have sensitivity and what it feels like.

Sensitivity can be caused by enamel erosion which exposes the dentin to more stimuli.  Enamel erosion is often due to brushing too hard or certain eating and drinking habits like excessive consumption of acid-containing foods.  If you can’t start your day without eating a whole lemon, you might begin to experience sensitivity over time as the citric acid wears down your enamel exposing the dentin layer.  Grinding your teeth can also wear down your enamel exposing the dentin.

Another cause of sensitivity could be gingival recession or tooth decay near the gingiva.  Enamel thins as it meets the gingiva and then transitions into cementum (a hard substance that covers the tooth root in a very thin layer).  If tooth decay begins along the gingiva of the tooth, there is less enamel protecting the dentin and pulp from being exposed to the bacteria and stimuli.  Recession of the gingiva exposes the tooth roots leaving them more vulnerable to hot and cold stimulation.  Recession can sometimes be caused by improper brushing practices and gum disease.

Cracked teeth often have sensitivity as a symptom.  The cracks allow bacteria from plaque to enter into the inner layers of the tooth causing sensitivity and pain.  Bacteria from plaque can effect healthy teeth as well.  If you have plaque build-up on exposed root surfaces, this can cause sensitivity.

Some products such as teeth whitening solutions, and some mouthwashes can be a contributing factor to tooth sensitivity.  Teeth whitening solutions are designed to penetrate into the enamel layer to whiten stains under the surface.  Some people feel “zinging” sensations and sensitivity discomfort after using in-office or at-home whitening products.    Certain mouthwashes contain acids that after long-term use, can heighten sensitivity as the dentin of the tooth is repeatedly exposed to the solution.   There are acid neutral mouthwashes available to help alleviate this problem.

Abrasive toothpastes can also Rock Erosionbe a culprit in tooth sensitivity.  The abrasive materials found in some toothpastes that are effective in removing plaque and whitening teeth can sometimes wear down tooth enamel.  The effect is similar to wind and sand erosion on rocks but on a micro scale.

So now we know Why and How tooth sensitivity can occur, we will address what you and your dentist can do about it on our next Dental Bite.