Do you ever experience pain or a ‘zinging’ feeling in your teeth after eating ice cream or sipping a hot beverage? Does brushing or flossing your teeth make you wince on occasion? If you answered yes to these questions, you may have sensitive teeth.
Some possible causes of sensitive teeth include:
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Fractured teeth
- Worn fillings
- Gum disease
- Worn tooth enamel
- Exposed tooth root
In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth- the part 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 and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.
Is there treatment for sensitive teeth? Yes! The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments which are listed here:
- Desensitizing toothpaste. This contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. This usually takes several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
- Fluoride gel. An in-office technique which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
- Surgical gum grafting. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
- Root canal. If the sensitivity is severe and persistent and no treatment has worked- this may be recommended to eliminate the problem.
Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive-tooth pain. Talking to your dentist about symptoms and options is the best way to diagnose and treat your sensitivity.