Springfield, MO – Do you cringe every time you take a sip of hot coffee or iced tea? Sensitive teeth are a common problem, but there are some ways you can lessen your sensitivity.
But what causes sensitive teeth in the first place? Teeth are made of enamel, the hard surface that protects the crowns of the teeth, and cementum, which protects the root of the tooth under the gum line. Underneath both of these is something called dentin, which is more sensitive than enamel and cementum.
“The dentin contains tiny, hollow tubes that, when the dentin’s protective covering is lost, allow heat and cold to touch the nerves inside the tooth,” says Dr. Tracy Davis, an Ozark dentist. “This causes sensitivity when eating or drinking hot or cold foods and even when breathing through your mouth.”
The first step in preventing sensitive teeth is proper oral care. If you have sensitive teeth, it is important to brush and floss regularly, but not to be too aggressive as you may increase your sensitivity by causing damage to the protective structures of your teeth.
If you suffer from periodontal disease, sensitive teeth may be a by-product of that. If left untreated, periodontal disease can progress until the bone and supporting tissue around the teeth are destroyed, leaving the root of the tooth exposed. Regular dental check-ups can catch and treat periodontal disease in its early stages.
What are the best sensitive tooth treatments?
“First, it’s important to visit your dentist so we can rule out any underlying issues that might be causing your sensitivity,” says Dr. Nick Matthews. “Our first step is typically recommending a desensitizing toothpaste. These toothpastes contain special compounds that can block the sensation from traveling through the surface of the tooth. Always look for one that has the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.”
It’s important to remember that it may take several applications of this toothpaste before you notice a difference. Multiple applications will help the compounds build up on the tooth enough to prevent the sensitivity.
Fluoride can be applied to strengthen the surface of the tooth, and decrease sensitivity. Fluoride can be applied in the dentist’s office, and you may also be given a prescription fluoride treatment to apply at home.
If the root of the tooth is exposed or enamel has been lost, bonding resin can be applied to the root surface. If a lack of gum tissue is the cause of the problem, gum tissue can be taken from another area of the mouth and grafted to the affected area. This will then protect the tooth root and reduce sensitivity.
If other treatments don’t work, you may need a root canal. This will target the problems in the pulp of the tooth and is the most successful way to eliminate tooth sensitivity.
The best way to avoid tooth sensitivity is to maintain a proper oral care routine. Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush, using a fluoride toothpaste, twice a day. Floss your teeth once a day. If you have sensitive teeth, it is important to avoid brushing your teeth too hard or using an abrasive toothpaste.
You may also be encouraged to make some changes to your diet. Acidic foods and drinks, such as soft drinks and citrus fruits, should be avoided. Highly acidic foods remove small amounts of tooth enamel every time they come into contact with your teeth. Always use a straw for acidic drinks to limit their contact with your teeth. Drinking milk or water after having an acidic food or drink can balance out the levels of acid in your mouth.
It’s also important to remember to wait to brush your teeth until at least 20 minutes after you’ve eaten. Acid softens enamel, so brushing while they are still at work can actually ae your teeth more vulnerable.