The cause of sensitive teeth
When teeth become sensitive, it is triggered by the stimulation of cells that are in tiny tubes found in the dentin, which is the tissue layer beneath the hard enamel containing the inner pulp. As soon as the hard enamel is worn down or receding of the gums has occurred, exposing the tiny tube surfaces, pain occurs when consuming food or drinks which are hot or cold, pressures are put on the teeth, or they are exposed to cold air.
These hot and cold temperature changes make the teeth expand and contract. Your teeth develop microscopic splits over time, that enable these sensations to seep down into the nerves. Exposed tooth areas can trigger pain and possibly affect your eating, drinking, and breathing. For instance, a cold spoonful of ice cream can bring on pain for individuals with sensitive teeth.
A common condition
Teeth sensitivity is a very common complaint of dental patients. It is estimated that there is a minimum of 45 million adults in the United States and about five million in Canada that has a problem with sensitive teeth some of the time.
Ways to avoid sensitivity
Some of the toothpaste available have abrasive particles which can be too severe for patients with sensitive teeth. Some of the ingredients in whitening toothpaste that lighten and/or remove stains from the enamel can be abrasive. Also sodium pyrophosphate, the main ingredient in tartar-control toothpaste can boost sensitivity in teeth.
To avoid sensitivity from happening, always use a soft-bristled brush. Do not use hard-bristled brushes or press down too hard when brushing your teeth, wearing down the tooth’s root surface, therefore exposing sensitive areas. One way to know if you are pressing too hard when brushing is to examine your toothbrush. If you have all the bristles going in different directions, then you are pressing too hard when brushing your teeth.
When to see the dentist
If your tooth is extremely sensitive for more than 3 or 4 days and responds to hot and cold temperature changes, it is advised to get an examination from your dentist to find out the severity of the problem. Prior to trying to solve the problem yourself, a correct diagnosis of the tooth sensitivity is important to effectively treat and rid the tooth of pain and discomfort. Because they have similar symptoms of pain, some might believe that their tooth is sensitive, when it might be a case of a cavity or abscess.
What to tell the dentist
Sensitivity is described as a sharp, short pain, generally started by hot or cold foods or contact with cold air. Often, aching can occur afterward. Sensitivity may imply different things to the patient than it does to the dentist, so be sure to explain precisely to your dentist what you are feeling. Let him know when the pain began and describe anything, for instance, the use of a warm compress, that helps you get rid of the pain.
Products to alleviate sensitivity
There are toothpaste made for sensitive teeth, typically with a desensitizing agent that adds protection to the exposed dentin by blocking tubes in the teeth which are linked to nerves. In many situations, the special toothpaste should be applied regularly for at least 30 days before results can be observed.
How the dentist can help
Dentists have a wide range of regimens to handle tooth hypersensitivity, that includes in-office treatments and patient-applied items that can be used at home. If your dentist finds you have dentin hypersensitivity, he can apply a desensitizing agent or add a protective coating. You might be given a stannous fluoride gel or over-the-counter toothpaste that desensitizes, using fluoride and potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These components assist in blocking transmission of sensation through the tooth towards the nerve. Massaging the special toothpaste on the gums with your finger also can help.
Care after application of a desensitizing agent by the dentist
Follow your dentist’s directions closely. You may be advised not to eat or drink for a brief time afterward, to remove all possible sources of irritation, like foods or medications that are acidic, very concentrated foods or toothpaste that are flavored. You might also be instructed to change your dental hygiene practices which are most likely to be abrasive or to use a fluoride application daily, either a rinse or a gel that brushes on.