Is enjoying ice cream or sipping hot coffee sometimes painful to you? What about brushing or flossing your teeth? If so, you may have sensitive teeth.
Possible causes of sensitive teeth
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Fractured teeth
- Worn fillings
- Gum disease
- Worn tooth enamel
- Exposed tooth roots
A tooth is made of layers; at the centre are nerves and blood vessels. These are protected by an outer layer of strong enamel in the crown (above the gums). The root is protected by the gums and a tooth layer called cementum. The bulk of a tooth is the middle layer called dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum, and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow canals). When the protective covering of enamel or cementum or gums are lost, the dentin tubules are exposed and can transmit heat, cold, acid and sugar to the nerves and cells on the inside. Dentin can be exposed when gums recede or enamel is worn or fractured off.
Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment depends on the cause of the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:
- Desensitizing toothpaste: Some toothpastes are designed to decrease sensitivity and contain compounds that help block transmission of sensations through dentin tubules. These usually require several applications before relief is experienced. Different toothpastes have different compounds, so one may work better for you than other.
- Fluoride gel: Topical application of fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and reduced transmission of sensations. This can be done in-office or with special take-home treatments.
- Crown, Inlay, bonding: These techniques can be used by your dentists to restore tooth structure lost from decay, wear or chipping.
- Surgical gum graft: If recession has occurred, and gum tissue has been lost, surgery can be done to recover this soft tissue protection of the root, and reduce sensitivity.
- Root canal: Severe and persistent sensitivity often cannot be treated by other means; your dentist may recommend treating the tooth with a root canal to eliminate the problem.
Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive-tooth pain. Ask your Dentist or Periodontist if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.