Lacee Hogle, RDH
Do you avoid drinking hot and cold liquids or avoid eating sweet and sour foods because you know it will cause discomfort? If so, it may be time to discuss this concern with your dentist. In order for your dentist to treat the sensitivity, your dentist must determine the cause.
Possible causes include:
Tooth Decay (cavities)
To help you better understand why your teeth may be sensitive, first you must understand the anatomy of a tooth. In a healthy tooth, a layer of enamel protects the crown of your tooth- the part above your gumline. That protective layer is not supplied by nerves; therefore, you will not feel discomfort when your enamel is exposed to anything that is hot or cold. Under the gumline there is a layer called cementum that protects the root of the tooth. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is
dentin. Dentin is supplied by nerves and therefore will cause discomfort if exposed to anything hot or cold. Now that you understand the anatomy of a tooth, lets discuss ways we can help relieve or prevent tooth sensitivity.
If your dentist believes that your sensitivity is due to recession, your dentist may recommend sensitive toothpaste. Also, your dentist may recommend a fluoride varnish and a fluoride rinse. In addition, the doctor may ask you to avoid drinking acidic liquids. As mentioned before, when you have recession, dentin is exposed. Dentin has holes called dentinal tubules. If we are able to occlude the holes with a fluoride varnish and a fluoride rinse, your sensitivity will subside. Both of these approaches are conservative therefore you won’t receive immediate relief. It may take a few weeks before you start to
feel a difference.
Another option to help with discomfort is to have a gum graft performed. Gum grafts include removing tissue from the roof of your mouth and placing the tissue over the dentin. This is somewhat of an aggressive approach to relieving tooth sensitivity but if a conservative approach is not sufficient, a gum graft is a great option. Also, in some cases, placing a composite filling over the dentin is an option.
Now let’s discuss ways to prevent recession. Studies show that you use a lot more pressure with a manual toothbrush than you do with an electric toothbrush. So yes, if you are heavy handed and you tend to use a lot of pressure while brushing, an electric toothbrush would be a good investment. If you’re opposed to purchasing an electric toothbrush, try holding your manual toothbrush with just a few fingers instead of your whole fist. It’s almost impossible to apply a lot of pressure when you’re using a
few fingers to hold the toothbrush handle. Also, please be aware that most people tend to have recession on the teeth that they brush first. Everyone tends to use a lot of pressure when they first start to brush their teeth. So switch it up, start off by brushing the teeth that you typically brush last.
If your doctor believes that your discomfort is due to gum disease, the approach is the same as mentioned above. You’re still dealing with recession, it’s just the recession was not due to brushing too aggressively, it was due to gum disease. Make sure the gum disease is addressed by having a “deep cleaning” performed. A deep cleaning will create a healthy oral environment which will then help prevent further recession. Once the gum disease has been addressed, follow the simple steps that we discussed previously.
If your dentist believes that your sensitivity is due to decay, a filling, inlay or crown can help relieve the sensitivity. If you have a large cavity, a root canal treatment may need to be performed.
If your dentist believes that your sensitivity is due to a cracked tooth, a crown typically will relieve the discomfort. In some rare cases, the crack will be below the gumline and unfortunately the only option at that point is to pull the tooth.
Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive-tooth pain. It is important to brush and floss your teeth daily. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.
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