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Best Treatments for Sensitive Teeth

If you experience pain in your teeth when eating or drinking (especially with items that are hot, cold, sweet, or sour), when cold air hits your teeth, or you have ongoing pain when brushing your teeth, you should make an appointment with your dentist to have the sensitivity evaluated. The dentist will be able to identify the cause of your sensitivity and recommend treatments to help alleviate the pain and discomfort. In this post, we’ll take a deeper look at available treatments for tooth sensitivity.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Sensitive teeth happen when the dentin (the underlying layer of your teeth) is exposed, aggravating sensitive nerves. This can happen over time when the tooth enamel (the hard, protective outer layer) becomes worn. Tooth enamel can be compromised due to consuming certain food and drinks, your genetics, overzealous brushing (or brushing with bristles that are too hard), poor dental hygiene, teeth grinding, the use of tooth whitening products, or a lack of regular dental care and professional cleaning. Sometimes, routine dental procedures and treatments can even cause temporary sensitivity.   Other causes of tooth sensitivity include gum disease that causes the gums to become inflamed or recede (pull away) from the natural gum line, cavities, a filling that is missing or has worn out, or breaks, chips, or cracks in the teeth.   When the root (the base of the tooth usually protected by the gums) is exposed due to a receding gum line, you can experience painful sensitivity. The root of the tooth isn’t covered by the same hard enamel as the rest of the tooth surface, thus that area is more vulnerable to sensitivity if exposed. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this is because the root of the tooth contains thousands of dentinal tubules, which are tiny channels that, when exposed, can allow stimuli to reach the nerve-rich pulp in the center of your tooth, causing pain.   If you have cavities, cracks, or chips in your teeth, a pathway has been created for bacteria from plaque to get through the protective outer coating of enamel and enter your tooth. Eventually, the bacteria can build up and reach the tooth’s soft tissue center. When this happens, the result is increased sensitivity and pain due to inflammation in the pulp.

What are the Treatments for Sensitive Teeth?

Your dentist may have you make an appointment for a special fluoride treatment to help strengthen the enamel. They will also likely recommend limiting your intake of acidic foods that can erode the enamel and using a soft-bristled toothbrush with desensitizing toothpaste as the first line of defense against tooth pain and discomfort. These special kinds of toothpaste for sensitivity have ingredients like potassium nitrate, stannous fluoride, and strontium chloride that work to desensitize your tooth, often making the pain and discomfort more tolerable in just a few days. With consistent daily use, sensitivity toothpaste can dramatically reduce or even stop your tooth sensitivity in about a month. If you stop using the sensitivity toothpaste, the pain and sensitivity can (and likely will) return. Your dentist will know the best duration of treatment for your personal situation and can advise you on the best type of desensitizing toothpaste for your case.   When the cause of the pain is a cavity, chip, crack, or exposed tooth root, the dentist will probably recommend more aggressive treatment to stop the progression of decay and deterioration, support and strengthen the enamel, and reduce the sensitivity. If a cavity is the cause of your pain, a filling can be used to block the hole in the enamel and prevent further damage. For cracks and chips, your dentist can repair the tooth utilizing veneers, crowns, bonding material, or root canals.

  • Gum grafting

    Soft tissue from the roof of the mouth is applied to the exposed area of the tooth.

  • Root canal

    Removes the nerve-rich tooth pulp from inside the tooth and fills the empty canal with a composite material, effectively stopping the pain and sensitivity.

  • Veneers

    A covering placed over the front of the tooth, could cover a crack or chip.

  • Dental crown

    A small tooth-shaped cap placed over the tooth after a root canal, gives the tooth a new protective covering.

  • Bonding

    A material applied to the exposed tooth root to protect it from pain and sensitivity.

  • Dentin sealer

    A special sealant applied to the exposed root to protect and strengthen it.

  • Mouth guard

    Worn at night to protect your teeth from the enamel-harming effects of Bruxism (teeth grinding)

Is there a Cure for Sensitive Teeth?

In many cases, yes! Sometimes sensitivity is temporary and will resolve on its own. In other cases, if the root cause of your sensitivity can be corrected with a specialized treatment or a procedure like a root canal, sensitivity in the treated area can be “cured” (the pain will stop). If the cause of your sensitivity doesn’t have a permanent cure, it is very possible to be successful in managing the symptoms at home with regular use of sensitivity toothpaste.   Regardless of the reason for your tooth sensitivity, it is important to be evaluated by your dentist to determine the best treatment plan. And, as always, visiting your dentist for regular dental cleanings twice per year is recommended to maintain optimal oral health.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Tooth sensitivity can arise from the exposure of dentin, the layer underneath tooth enamel, which may be due to worn enamel from various factors like aggressive brushing, acidic food consumption, teeth grinding, and lack of regular dental care. Other causes include gum disease, cavities, or physical damage such as cracks and chips in the teeth.

Treatments may range from at-home measures like using desensitizing toothpaste and soft-bristled toothbrushes to professional dental treatments. These could include fluoride treatments, fillings for cavities, and procedures like gum grafting, root canals, applying veneers, dental crowns, bonding, or dentin sealers, depending on the root cause of the sensitivity.

In many instances, tooth sensitivity can be cured, especially if the underlying cause is addressed with a specialized treatment or procedure like a root canal. However, in cases where a permanent cure isn’t possible, symptoms can be managed effectively with the regular use of desensitizing toothpaste and adherence to dentist’s recommendations.

Prevention measures include maintaining good oral hygiene, using a soft-bristled toothbrush, avoiding overzealous brushing, limiting acidic food and drink intake, and attending regular dental check-ups and cleanings. It’s also advisable to use dental products designed for sensitive teeth and to seek prompt dental care if sensitivity arises.

For severe tooth sensitivity, dental procedures such as root canals, gum grafting, application of veneers or dental crowns, bonding, and dentin sealer applications are common. These procedures aim to address the underlying cause of sensitivity, protect exposed areas, and provide relief from pain and discomfort.

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