Sensitive Teeth

The invisible ouch

Painful Exposure. Some people experience tooth pain whenever something hot or cold touches their teeth. Usually, the culprit is a case of worn enamel or receding gums, since these conditions can expose the tiny, sensitive tubes located within the tooth’s inner dentin layer. Sometimes, pain may result from hot and cold sensations creeping through microscopic cracks that have formed in your enamel as a result of perpetual temperature changes. Regardless of the source, exposed tooth nerves can be hard to handle, change your eating habits, and affect the way you breathe. Unfortunately, as many as 45 million adults in the USA suffer from sensitive teeth.

Proper Prevention. There are basically three ways to help prevent your teeth from becoming painfully sensitive. First, choose your toothpaste carefully. Toothpastes with abrasive ingredients, whitening, stain-removing , and tartar-control, can be too harsh for people with sensitive teeth. Second, choose your toothbrush carefully. Soft bristles and a proper technique will clean your teeth thoroughly, whereas hard bristles may irritate your gums and aggravate gum recession. Third, brush carefully! If your toothbrush bristles are all pointing in different directions, you’re brushing too hard and may wear down the tooth root surfaces, exposing sensitive spots.

Professional Diagnosis. It is important to obtain an accurate, professional diagnosis of the cause of tooth pain, if you notice the problem for more than three or four days. Our office will be able to determine whether the symptoms are related to sensitivity, a cavity, or an early-stage abscess. It is important to ask pertinent questions such as: “When does the pain start and stop? Is it a short, sharp pain associated with eating or drinking hot or cold items? Is it a long-term aching unrelated to a specific event?”

Protective Treatment. If you have noticed such sensitivity, do not dismay. It can be managed in several ways. First, you can choose an over the counter toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, containing a desensitizing agent to block the nerve connections and thus protect exposed dentin from hot or cold sensations. These products contain fluoride and potassium nitrate which block sensation transmission between the tooth and nerve. They may require up to a month of continuous use prior to providing relief. Second, you may undergo recommended in-office or at-home regimen to alleviate the hypersensitivity, such as application of a prescription desensitizing toothpaste or a gel containing stannous fluoride. Third, if there are exposed roots, we may be able to cover them with cosmetic bonding material.