Pain when eating, drinking or cleaning your teeth are signs you may have exposed dentin. Dentin lies beneath the hard outer surface of teeth, which protects it from oral bacteria, mouth contents like acidic foods and drink, and hot and cold temperatures. If you think the dentin in your teeth is exposed, you can manage the symptoms at home before you visit your dentist, who can offer a range of repair options.
What Is Dentin?
The majority of a tooth's mass is made up of dentin. A bone-like material, it contains living cells, tissue and microscopic tubes that lead to the sensitive nerves at the tooth's center. Tooth enamel protects dentin above the gumline, and cementum protects it below the gumline. When enamel or cementum decay, wear away or crack, dentin is exposed, and you may experience sensitivity and pain.
Signs of Exposed Dentin
Sometimes you can see where dentin is exposed on your teeth, or you might only feel the symptoms. The American Dental Association (ADA) explains dentin is yellowish in color, and a sign of thin or eroded enamel is yellow teeth. The interior of a cavity may look darker than the surrounding enamel, or you might see yellow patches where your teeth meet the gums. If you can't see where the dentin is exposed, you might feel pain when eating or drinking hot and cold substances, or when brushing or flossing your teeth.
Any oral health habits or conditions that wear away, decay or crack enamel or cementum can expose dentin. Gum disease due to poor oral hygiene is a major cause. The gums recede from the teeth and expose dentin in the tooth roots. Brushing your teeth too firmly or incorrectly can also cause gums to recede. The ADA lists cavities, tooth fractures, worn enamel and worn fillings as other causes of exposed dentin.
Desensitizing toothpaste, such a Colgate Enamel Health Sensitivity Relief, which gently polishes teeth, also helps relieve tooth sensitivity due to exposed dentin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Brush twice a day using a soft-bristled brush and sensitive toothpaste, and floss once a day, but don't brush or floss vigorously or you could make the problem worse. Acid in foods and drinks erodes tooth enamel, so avoid acidic substances, such as soda, wine, yogurt and citrus fruits.
Exposed Dentin Repair
Your dentist may offer a range of treatments to repair the damage to your enamel or cementum, such as:
- Fluoride varnish foam or gel, which strengthen dentin and enamel
- Bonding agent to seal the dentin surface
- Prescription high-fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the enamel
- Crown, bonding or inlay to fix the enamel decay or flaw
- Surgical gum graft, which restores receded gums
When the dentin in your teeth is exposed, it causes discomfort, and it may spoil the appearance of your teeth. You can reduce the resulting tooth sensitivity by using toothpaste for sensitive teeth. For a permanent fix, visit your dentist, who can find out the cause and recommend the right treatment.