What is the Remedy for Sensitive Teeth?
Answer From Marc L, Montgomery, D.D.S.
If you notice new or increased tooth sensitivity and it doesn’t go away in about 30 seconds, visit your dentist.
A professional can diagnose the underlying cause and not leave you at risk. A correct and early diagnosis is your best remedy for sensitive teeth. The solution will vary depending on the cause. Feeling sharp or temporary pain in your teeth is your signal to take immediate action. Constant throbbing tooth pain can be a significant distraction and prevent you from doing other things, such as working productively and sleeping. The sharp pain usually requires immediate dental assistance. Don’t wait until it is consistent pain.
To gain the most from this article, we’ll start by answering basic questions.
What is Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is a type of tooth pain that is often called toothache. It refers to the symptom of discomfort or pain coming from a tooth (or teeth). In the world of dentistry, it is known as dentin hypersensitivity. It is a painful experience that happens when the inner (dentin) layer of your tooth gets exposed.
You can be observant of which daily activities cause you to feel tooth pain. If performing ordinary activities like flossing, brushing, or eating causes unbearable pain, call your dentist immediately.
What makes a person aware of dental hypersensitivity?
Things that may trigger your awareness of a dental hypersensitivity issue:
- When you brush your teeth.
- When you are chewing (and if it is something sticky or hard).
- If you are drinking something hot or cold.
- If air suddenly hits your teeth.
- If touching your cheek near a sensitive tooth.
- If it occurs when the problem tooth touches another tooth (above or below).
- If an older crown is loose.
- A too-aggressive tooth bleaching or whitening process.
Oral sensitivity to hot and cold shouldn’t be ignored since it can be a signal of an abscess, cavity, inflamed tooth pulp, cracked tooth or receding gums.
Will Tooth Sensitivity go Away?
Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time. A person can be misleading about the severity of an issue by relying on over-the-counter desensitizing kinds of toothpaste without seeing their dentist. They can block off the nerve endings in the exposed dentin and leave the cause of your tooth discomfort undiagnosed. In many cases, this means that the source of your tooth pain is likely to get worse over time.
A dental patient may experience some normal teeth sensitivity after fillings, teeth cleanings, a smile design, and dental restoration placement. Sensitivity caused by a dental procedure is common, temporary, and usually goes away in two-four weeks or more. For example, a diabetic patient or someone with an additional health complexity issue may need longer.
Sensitivity following oral procedures may require additional dental appointments to ensure that the healing process is well underway. If not, our dental team may seal or fill around the neck of an exposed tooth at your gum line. By covering exposed dentine, it has a good chance of resolving. In more extensive cases needing restorative dental procedures, it may be helpful to root-fill the tooth.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Common factors that cause tooth discomfort:
- A cavity.
- Plaque buildup.
- Worn or thinning tooth enamel.
- If something cracked or chipped your tooth.
- An older tooth filling that wears out.
- Receding gums or if you are developing periodontal (gum) disease.
- Tooth sensitivity due to a recent dental implant that is still stabilizing.
- Flossing too aggressively.
- The continuous use of mouthwash that contains acid.
- If something is stuck in between your teeth, or Invisalign aligners.
Dentin hypersensitivity may cause tooth pain when tubules found within dentin become exposed, most commonly caused by gingival recession or enamel wear. Tooth sensitivity is a common complaint of dental patients. “Studies have demonstrated dentinal hypersensitivity to affect 10–30% of the population,” according to Danielle Clark, writing for NIH. The October 31, 2020 Non-surgical management of tooth hypersensitivity article discusses medical theories regarding sensitivity.
For individuals seeking a deeper understanding, the ‘hydrodynamic theory’, proposed by Brannstrom and Astrom, considers the following.
“…thermal, osmotic or physical stimuli create movement of fluid within the dentinal tubules, causing the activation of nerve endings. These nerve endings are thought to be at the border of the dentin and the pulp. The activation of nerve endings causes a distinguishing sharp and rapid pain, and many treatments have been created to relieve these symptoms.”
No one solution fits every person’s needs. At Montgomery Dental Care we review appropriate treatment options for dentinal hypersensitivity that are based on your individual situation. To establish the best treatment plan we consider the initial cause of the sensitivity and your risk factors. As with all oral health conditions, we start with determining the cause and then select the least invasive option available with the highest probability of a successful outcome.
Does Demineralization of Dental Enamel Cause Sensitive Teeth?
Yes. A demineralization process occurs before a tooth begins to decay and form cavities or other problems. Plaque build-up breaks down tooth enamel which contributes to demineralization, which makes the tooth’s interior dentin and sensitive root more vulnerable.
“Tooth demineralization takes seconds to begin, while tooth remineralization can take hours. When demineralization is overtaking remineralization, we risk sensitivity and damage to the tooth structure, especially when acidic foods and drinks contain refined sugar. Statistics show that one out of every eight Americans suffer from teeth sensitivity—otherwise known as dentinal hypersensitivity—but few of us talk to a dentist about it.” – James Keddington DDS, assistant professor and section head of dental conservation and restoration at the University of Utah School of Dentistry
Keddington points out that sour candy often has a pH similar to that of battery acid! If that is your go-to treat, you may want to replace it. The same is true with drinking soda. “Each sip leads to increased demineralization,” according to the 17 December 2017 The Perils of Sensitive Teeth article.
Talk to your dentist if you experience dentinal hypersensitivity
You may be doing everything you can think of to maintain good oral hygiene and eliminate a high intake of acidic foods, and still experience a tooth reacting to hot or cold. Talk with your doctor. Simple solutions and ruling out more serious symptoms can keep you smiling.
What might my Dentist Recommend to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity?
There are several helpful dental procedures that typically reduce sensitivity:
- Dental bonding is useful to overlay and protect exposed root surfaces.
- Surgical gum graft.
- Tooth fluoride varnishes that are professionally applied to your exposed tooth roots.
- Dentin sealers that add a protective cover to exposed teeth root surfaces.
- Root canal.
Next, we’ll cover each procedure in more in-depth.
1. Desensitizing or dental bonding:
Occasionally, exposed root surfaces can be treated by applying bonding resin to the sensitive root surfaces. A local anesthetic might be needed. Dental bonding will use that extra layer of the composite coating to keep extreme temperatures away from the enamel, thus eliminating severe sensitivity. The composite resin will bond with the enamel and ensure that it is protected from anything that might cause discomfort or harm.
2. Surgical gum graft:
If your tooth root experiences receeding gum tissue, a small amount of tissue can be taken from elsewhere in your mouth and attached where needed. This can protect exposed roots and reduce sensitivity. Gum grafting surgery is used to permanently covers exposed tooth roots, This helps to reduce discomfort, restore the gum to good health, and improve appearance.
3. Professional tooth fluoride varnishes:
Fluoride treatments come in liquid, gel, foam, or varnish formats. Tooth fluoride varnishes are brushed onto your teeth or placed in a small tray that conveniently fits over your teeth. Fluoride is actually a naturally occurring mineral that helps prevent cavities; it can even reverse the initial stages of tooth enamel breakdown. For people with sensitivity issues, it may be helpful for tooth enamel erosion.
4. Dentin sealers:
Dental erosion happens when the surface quality of a person’s teeth is lost after touching acid. Dental erosion is preventable with a good diet, oral hygiene, and regular dental cleanings. Individuals experiencing more severe dentinal hypersensitivity may have dentin sealers recommended by their dentist. They are thin plastic coatings applied to your molars, root surfaces, exposed dentin, and/or gum recession to reduce sensitivity where food is likely to contact the pits and fissures when chewing.
5. Root canal:
If your sensitive teeth generate consistent and severe pain, and other treatments aren’t effective, your dentist may recommend a root canal. This is a common dental procedure used to treat problems in the tooth’s soft core (dental pulp). Broadly, it’s considered the most successful technique for eliminating tooth sensitivity.
If you are experiencing severe pain or pain in one or two teeth, your dentist may use a process called differential diagnosis. This helps to determine the source of your dental hypersensitivity. Visual exams, X-rays, and CBCT scans for diagnosing tooth problems are part of the process. Differential diagnosis simply means that your dentist will ask you questions about your pain and dental habits. It’s part of the process of elimination to discover the exact tooth — that’s causing the pain and why.
How can I Avoid Tooth Sensitivity?
Ways you can reduce sensitive tooth pain:
- Maintain good oral health.
- Drink only water before bed.
- Try desensitizing toothpastes.
- Avoid grinding your teeth.
- Increase dental checkups as you age.
Most importantly, going forward, take better care of your teeth.
Maintain good oral health: Your dentist will review your oral health history with you. Your daily diet and at-home oral care routine also play a significant role in keeping overly sensitive tooth issues at bay. Consider taking extra care when eating or drinking acidic foods and drinks. If you like carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, coffee, and/or wine — all of these can remove small amounts of tooth enamel over time. If you drink acidic liquids multiple times per day, use a straw to limit contact with your teeth. After consuming an acidic substance, drink water to balance the acid levels in your mouth. Or better yet, go brush and floss your teeth.
Drink only water before bed: Never drink something other than water after you brush before bed and before falling asleep. This can leave something acidic in direct contact with your tooth enamel all night.
Try desensitizing toothpastes: contain compounds such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These ingredients work to reduce pain signals transmitted between the surface of your tooth and the inside nerves. Commonly, several applications of toothpaste are needed before you will feel a noticeable difference. Prescription-strength tubes of toothpaste are an option for more severe and prolonged cases of tooth sensitivity. Ask our dentist to recommend a toothpaste for your needs.
Avoid grinding your teeth: Many people are unaware that they are grinding or clenching their teeth while sleeping. Regular dental checkups help your dentist identify if something signals a protection problem. Your dentist may suggest wearing a mouthguard at night if the problem is tooth grinding.
Increase dential checkups as you age: Tooth sensitivity is a common problem as people age. Tooth enamel naturally thins and can expose a person’s dentin to outside elements. “The risk of cavities, root caries, and more commonly observed tooth sensitivity or dry mouth increases with age,” according to NIH’s article on Oral health in the elderly patient and its impact on general well-being. As gum tissues may recede, good daily dental hygiene is vital to maintain good oral health and quality of life in older people.
Tooth pain shouldn’t interfere with your ability to enjoy a great day. Dr. Marc L. Montgomery is an expert in the different treatments available and can best decide which treatments are appropriate and when they should be utilized. We’re here to help you determine what’s causing your sensitive teeth and recommend the best treatment to address the issue.
Call 651-738-1880 to gain the right answer for you!