When you think of eating cold, creamy ice cream or sweet candy or drinking hot coffee, do you cringe? Does brushing and flossing seem to make sensitive teeth more vulnerable to cold, sweet or hot foods? Are you grimacing, moaning and pushing away your dental hygienist’s hand when they clean and polish your teeth? Sounds like you are suffering with tooth sensitivity, and it’s no picnic by any stretch of the imagination!
What causes tooth sensitivity or hypersensitivity?
A healthy tooth has a layer of enamel which protects the crown of the tooth. The crown is the part of the tooth you can see above the gum line. The root of this same healthy tooth is under the gum line with a layer of cementum protecting the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin.
Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum. It contains microscopic tubules, small hollow tubes or canals. When the protective covering of enamel or cementum is lost or gums recede exposing dentin, that’s when trouble starts. The tubules now allow cold, sweet, hot and acidic foods to “reach out and touch” the nerves and cells inside the tooth. It’s like an intense “ZING!” and it is painful.
Can tooth sensitivity be treated?
Yes, sensitive teeth can be treated. First, Dr. Davis must determine what the cause of the sensitivity is. Possible causes for sensitivity include:
- Worn Fillings
- Gum Disease
- Worn Tooth Enamel
- Exposed Roots
After the cause is determined, Dr. Davis will suggest one of the following treatments:
- Desensitizing toothpaste. This kind of toothpaste contains compounds. The compounds help block sensations from the surface to the nerve of a tooth. It usually takes several uses for any tooth sensitivity to be reduced.
- Fluoride Gel Treatment. Fluoride gel treatments strengthen tooth enamel and reduce tooth sensitivities. These treatments are applied in our office.
- A Crown, Inlay or Bonding. If decay or a flaw in a tooth is the cause of tooth sensitivity, a crown, inlay or bonding may be used to correct the problem.
- Surgical Gum Graft. Surgical gum grafts protect exposed roots and reduce tooth sensitivity. It’s important to use a soft bristled toothbrush. If you’re too aggressive getting after that plaque, you’ll brush away good gum tissue!
- Root Canal. The severe pain of a tooth is indicative of an infected root. Sometimes tooth sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by the other means mentioned previously. In this case, Dr. Davis may recommend a root canal to eliminate the problem.
As always, proper oral hygiene is key in preventing painful tooth sensitivity. Ask Dr. Davis about proper daily oral hygiene and mention any tooth sensitivity you may be experiencing. Our office hours are Monday through Thursday, 8:00am to 5:00pm. Give us a call at (307) 634-3488 to schedule an exam to address your concerns. We’re here to help you maintain a pain-free smile!