Tooth Sensitivity

When you drink something hot or cold, or eat something sweet or sour, or simply touch your teeth with a fork or toothbrush-do you ever feel a sudden painful sensation?  It’s not a constant pain; it comes and goes.  It may be due to sensitive teeth.

You are not alone.  Many people suffer from sensitive teeth.  Unfortunately, many people don’t bring this matter to attention of their dentists.

If you suspect you have sensitive teeth, let us know. We can identify if it is sensitivity. or something more serious.  

The most common theory about tooth sensitivity and what causes is related to the dentin in your teeth.  Dentin is the porous part of your tooth, underneath and below the protective enamel covering.  Underlying dentin can be exposed in a number of ways, including:

  • Recession of the gums                                                                  
  • Gum disease (and/or gingivitis)
  • Periodontal treatment
  • Fractured or chipped teeth
  • Tooth wear at the gum line (called abrasion or abfractions)
  • Teeth clenching or grinding
  • Enamel Erosion/Acid Wear (due to acidic foods, or conditions like bulimia, acid reflux)

Once the dentin is exposed, so are tiny fluid filled tubes (tubules) that make the dentin porous.  These tubules connect to the center of the tooth where the nerve is located.  Any stimulus can trigger fluid movement and excite the nerve, resulting in a sensation that can be a mild as a tingling feeling or as intense as a sharp pain. 

Your dentist or hygienist will discuss a number of factors that may be lending themselves to sensitivity.  They can help you avoid or correct some of the most common causes of sensitivity.

Secondly, they may suggest one of a number of in-office treatments available that can give you relief, if it is appropriate for you.  Fillings/Bondings may be needed to replace lost enamel, or varnishes may be recommended to coat the teeth.  As an alternative or in addition to in-office treatment, a sensitivity toothpaste may be recommended.

The sensitivity toothpastes work by blocking the tubules to reduce fluid movement and therefore nerve excitation.  The protection builds over time; it may take 2-3 weeks before noticing any results.  The effect can increase up to 3 months.  If discontinued, the sensitivity can return. 

Sensitivity can be treated and relief can be obtained with a number of treatments.  Sensitivity toothpaste is often a first line of treatment and can provide some relief so that you will be able to enjoy the foods and drinks that you like.