What To Do If You Have Sensitive Teeth

As we know, tooth sensitivity affects many people across the United States in different age groups. Tooth sensitivity is caused by gum recession and loss of the exposed cementum (mineralized dental tissue that covers the roots on the teeth). or loss of enamel (hard layer covering the teeth). When your enamel is worn down, it can expose the next layer of tooth which is the dentin. The dentin contains tubules that run from the external tooth surface to the dental pulp which contains the nerves and blood vessels of the teeth. The fluid flowing in the dentin tubules is perturbed when the dentin is exposed and sensitivity is triggered by an external stimulus, and this can be perceived as pain.

Below is a picture of exposed dentin tubules.

Dentin Tubules

Digital image of open dentin tubules

Picture taken from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=s1516-14392007000200010&script=sci_arttext

What Are Your Options for Treating Tooth Sensitivity?

If your dentist has diagnosed that you have tooth sensitivity, he/she will discuss some of the options that can be performed in the dental office, as well as at home, to prevent further tooth sensitivity from occurring.

In Office Treatments

There are several different types of treatments that can be utilized in the dental office. These include professionally applied desensitizing agents (e.g. fluoride varnishes, fluoride gels or foams, desensitizing pastes) that provide ingredients that can help to seal the tubule openings to protect the teeth and help to remineralize the dentin and enamel (redeposit minerals back into this layer of the tooth). The fluoride varnishes are applied by the dental professional after a professional scaling and polishing has been completed. Fluoride gels and foams are usually placed in a disposable tray that covers the teeth. The patient holds this in place by biting down on the tray for about a one minute. No eating, drinking or rinsing is recommended for 30 minutes. Desensitizing pastes can be used before or after a professional scaling and helps to plug the dentin tubules and block pain stimuli.

At Home Therapy

After you leave the office, consider using a toothpaste for sensitivity sufferers with potassium nitrate as the active ingredient. Potassium nitrate is a compound that penetrates exposed dentin tubules to relieve pain at the nerves inside the tooth. There are many toothpastes available today that can provide relief of this prevalent problem. Using a soft bristled toothbrush and performing thorough oral hygiene procedures to keep the teeth and gum tissue clean and healthy will help. Your dentist may also prescribe a high concentration fluoride toothpaste to help strengthen the tooth surface and provide additional protection from future sensitivity pain.

Continue to see your dental professional on a regular basis to help monitor your tooth sensitivity issue and make sure it is more comfortable for you. If it is not, talk to your dental professional so that he/she can explore more treatment options with you.

© Copyright 2011 Colgate-Palmolive Company

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Tooth sensitivity occurs when the enamel that protects our teeth gets thinner, or when gum recession occurs, exposing the underlying surface, the dentin, thus, reducing the protection the enamel and gums provide to the tooth and root.

Signs & Symptoms

If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air, makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive or painful, then you may have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.