Do you have sensitive teeth?

Do you avoid ice cream because your teeth don’t love it? If your teeth become sensitive to brushing, flossing, heat, cold or certain foods, the discomfort can interfere with the enjoyment of daily activities. You may have a common problem called dentin hypersensitivity, or “sensitive” teeth.

Before treating you for sensitive teeth, however, your dentist will first make sure there are no underlying dental problems causing the discomfort such as a cavity, tooth grinding, or a dying or fractured tooth.

Why are my teeth sensitive?

Teeth become sensitive when the dentin (the tooth layer covered by enamel) becomes exposed. The microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes) found in dentin are then exposed allowing sensations of heat and cold or acidic foods to stimulate the nerves and cells within the tooth. This causes hypersensitivity (excessive sensitivity).

Cementum may become exposed when gums recede due to age or gum disease. The result can be hypersensitivity near the gumline. Vigorous tooth brushing at the gum margin or tooth grinding can also cause the enamel to thin, exposing the cementum.

What do I do?

Hypersensitivity can be treated. Your dentist may recommend an approach that can be tried at home, such as desensitizing toothpaste. These kinds of toothpaste are often helpful. They contain compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. Desensitizing toothpaste, which usually contains strontium chloride or potassium nitrate, may require numerous applications before the sensitivity is reduced. These products will either seal the exposed tubule openings or reduce the ability of the nerves to transmit pain. When choosing dental products, look for those that carry the ADA Seal of Acceptance.

Your dentist may try some in-office techniques if desensitizing toothpaste is not helpful. Fluoride varnish treatments may be applied to the sensitive areas of the teeth. The fluoride binds to the tooth and reduces the transmission of sensations through it. Fluoride strengthens the enamel by helping the damaged tooth to re-mineralize. Another agent that blocks the transmission of sensations is called oxalate. Accepted strontium chloride gels may also be topically applied to the teeth.

If you’re experiencing sensitivity, make sure to let us know when you come in for your appointment so that we can help!