A Closer Look at Tooth Sensitivity
Registered Dental Hygienist Janet Steiner explains what it is, and what we can do about it.
Posted on 10/7/2020 by Covington Family Dental
teeth like fingerprint
If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air makes teeth or a tooth sensitive or painful then you have sensitive teeth.

Tooth sensitivity is very common with approximately fifty percent of dental patients experiencing tooth sensitivity at some time in their lives. Tooth sensitivity is usually caused by exposure of the root surfaces of teeth due to receded gums or periodontal (gum) disease.Receded gums are common and up to eighty percent of people have gum recession by the time they are 65.
When the root of a tooth becomes exposed it does not have a layer of enamel like the crowns of your teeth. Instead the roots have a very soft covering called cementum, which once lost leaves the dentin of the root exposed.

Many factors can increase the chances of suffering with sensitive teeth. Overzealous brushing or using course toothpaste can cause abrasion of the tooth’s enamel surface and exposedentin. A very acidic diet; for example, a diet with a great deal of citrus food, pickles, soda pop or energy drinks can cause tooth erosion and dissolve the tooth surface, therefore exposing the dentin. Bulimia, excessive alcohol, as well as GERD can also result in dental erosion and sensitivity due to increased acidity in the mouth. Bruxism (the continuous grinding or clenching of teeth) can cause gingival recession, furthering the opportunity to develop sensitivity.

The chances of getting tooth sensitivity can be reduced by keeping the mouth as healthy as possible with optimum oral hygiene-proper brushing and flossing. Proper oral care will help prevent receding gums as well as preventing and/ or stabilizing periodontal disease. The use of a less abrasive toothpaste, a toothpaste for sensitive teeth or a baking soda based toothpaste can help reduce tooth sensitivity. Furthermore, a diet that is lower in acidic content will also prevent tooth sensitivity.

Ignoring sensitive teeth can lead to additional oral health problems, especially if the pain causes poor brushing making one more vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease. It is always important to mention tooth sensitivity at dental check up appointments so that an optimum treatment can be initiated.

Pain after hot, cold, sweet or acidic food and drinks can be a sign of not only sensitivity but also a sign of decay (cavity) or a broken tooth. If decay or a broken tooth is discovered then a filling or crown can quickly remedy the sensitive area. To treat tooth sensitivity, most often it will begin with a conservative approach. Initially, a desensitizing toothpaste will be recommended. To reduce sensitivity, the patient will be shown to place a small amount of the toothpaste on the specific sensitive area and to leave it on for a significant amount of time or overnight. Be patient, this method takes time and has an accumulative effect.

Alternatively, a prescribed brush-on fluoride gel or fluoride rinse, or a high fluoride level toothpaste that is specially formulated to make teeth less sensitive while providing extra protection against decay could be recommended. These treatments are all about home care and are relatively inexpensive.

Office treatments for sensitive teeth are also available. These include treatments painted onto the teeth and consist of fluoride varnishes and plastic resins, or fillings if a considerable tooth area has been lost. Nutritional counseling can also benefit to the reduction of oral acidity. Finally, an occlusal guard should be considered to prevent further damage from bruxism.
Suffering from tooth sensitivity can be avoided with proper home care, consistent dental visits and appropriate follow up action if recommended.

The DENTAL HYGIENIST is a key component as your advocate to diminish or eliminate the irritation of tooth sensitivity.

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