When consuming cold, hot, sweet, sour, or acidic foods and liquids triggers discomfort and pain in one or more teeth, it is most likely the common dental condition of tooth sensitivity. The sudden sharp pains associated with tooth sensitivity are often short lived, however they can greatly affect overall quality of life if left untreated. Thankfully, tooth sensitivity can be treated and conditions can be improved significantly.
To understand the possible causes of tooth sensitivity, it is helpful to learn a little about tooth anatomy. Teeth are comprised of multiple tissue layers which vary in hardness and density. Most outwardly, a layer of enamel, which is the strongest substance in the body, serves to protect the crown portion of teeth above the gum line. Below the gum line, another layer called cementum helps to protect the root portion of teeth. Underneath both the enamel and cementum layers, is a softer tissue layer called dentin, comprised of microscopically small canals and hollow tubes. Dentin importantly forms the primary mass of a tooth around the inner most pulp center, additionally supporting enamel function and absorbing pressures. When dentin lose their protective cover, stimuli like cold, hot, sweet, sour, and acid foods and liquids create sensitivity by painfully stimulating inner cells and nerves of teeth via exposed canals and tubules. A variety of factors can potentially lead to tooth sensitivity, including:
- Broken, chipped, or cracked teeth which can increase plaque derived bacteria inflammation inside the tooth.
- Excessive or forceful brushing, particularly from a hard-bristled toothbrush, can lead to prematurely worn down enamel and exposed dentin.
- Plaque buildup on root surfaces.
- Gingivitis, a form of gum disease, that causes gum tissue inflammation and root exposure.
- Gum recession, often due to periodontal disease, which further exposes root surfaces and dentin.
- Bruxism, the involuntary grinding and clenching of teeth usually during sleep, can slowly wear down tooth enamel over time.
- Certain toothpastes and mouthwashes with higher acidity levels can damage enamel after long-term usage. Acidic foods can also erode enamel and cause tooth sensitivity.
- Tooth whitening products, especially containing peroxide and baking soda, can significantly weaken teeth over time.
- Recent professional cleaning, crown repair, root canal, or dental restoration procedures.
- Diets rich in acidic, sugary, and sticky foods and liquids slowly dissolve protective enamel and expose dentin.
Sensitivity Treatment Options
While tooth sensitivity ultimately may never fully disappear for some people, there are highly effective treatment options which can greatly reduce the frequency and severity of recurring painful symptoms. Some of the at-home treatment options include:
- Practicing proper oral hygiene by brushing twice per day and flossing daily to clean all areas of teeth and gums.
- Using a less abrasive soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Switching to a desensitizing fluoridated toothpaste instead of tartar control.
- Using specific enamel protective fluoridated mouthwash once a day.
- If grinding and clenching is a suspected problem, discuss using a nightguard with your dentist.
- Adjusting diet to less frequently consume highly acidic, sugary, and sticky foods and beverages.
When tooth sensitivity still persists, several in-office dental procedures can assist in reducing discomfort and pain. A special fluoride gel or varnish may be applied to help strengthen enamel and protect dentin. Desensitizing white filings (bonds) and dentin sealers may also be applied to help cover exposed root surfaces. In more severe cases, a surgical gum graft can be performed to protect the root when gum tissue is excessively recessed or lost. Finally, if no other technique is effective, an endodontic therapy or root canal treatment may be performed to eliminate inflamed or infected tooth pulp.
If you are experiencing ongoing discomfort and pain associated with tooth sensitivity, consult with your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will work with you to find the causes and develop a treatment plan to most effectively reduce your sensitivity.
To learn more, call Dorosti Dental & Associates in Zanesville at 740/452-3697.