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Posts for tag: sensitive teeth

By John G. Fisher, DMD
September 17, 2016
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sensitive teeth  
ReducingToothSensitivitywillDependontheCause

If you're one of over 30% of Americans who wince in pain when eating and drinking certain foods and beverages, you may have tooth sensitivity. Although there are a number of possible causes, the most common place to look first is tooth dentin.

Lying just under the enamel, dentin consists of tiny tubules that transmit sensations like pressure or temperature variation to the nerves of the inner pulp. The enamel, the gums and a covering on the roots called cementum help dampen these sensations.

But over-aggressive brushing or periodontal (gum) disease can cause the gums to shrink back (recede) and expose the dentin below the gum line; it can also cause cementum to erode from the roots. This exposure amplifies sensations to the nerves. Now when you eat or drink something hot or cold or simply bite down, the nerves inside the dentin receive the full brunt of the sensation and signal pain.

Enamel erosion can also expose dentin, caused by mouth acid in contact with the enamel for prolonged periods. Acid softens the minerals in enamel, which then dissolve (resorb) into the body. Acid is a byproduct of bacteria which live in dental plaque, a thin film of food particles that builds up on teeth due to poor oral hygiene. Mouth acid may also increase from gastric reflux or consuming acidic foods or beverages.

Once we pinpoint the cause of your tooth sensitivity we can begin proper treatment, first and foremost for any disease that's a factor. If you have gum disease, we focus on removing bacterial plaque (the cause for the infection) from all tooth and gum surfaces. This helps stop gum recession, but advanced cases may require grafting surgery to cover the root surfaces.

You may also benefit from other measures to reduce sensitivity: applying less pressure when you brush; using hygiene products like toothpastes that block sensations to the dentin tubules or slow nerve action; and receiving additional fluoride to strengthen enamel.

There are effective ways to reduce your tooth sensitivity. Determining which to use in your case will depend on the cause.

If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity: Understanding Your Options.”

By John G. Fisher, DMD
September 29, 2014
Category: Oral Health
TaketheScreamOutofIceCream

“We all scream for ice cream,” the saying goes. But what if eating ice cream — or any very cold or hot food — literally makes you want to scream because your teeth hurt so much?

What causes sensitivity in teeth?

Understanding the anatomy of a tooth helps explain what happens when a tooth becomes sensitive to heat and cold. A tooth is composed of three types of tissue: a hard outer shell of enamel, the body of the tooth composed of the dentin, and an interior tissue of the pulp.

Enamel: The enamel forms the outside of the crown, the part of the tooth you normally see. Made of densely packed crystals of calcium, it is resistant to wear. It is not living tissue, and does not contain nerves, but it is capable of transmitting temperature like hot and cold.

Dentin: Inside the tooth's crown and root is a living tissue called dentin, which is a porous structure similar to bone. It is composed of microscopic tubules containing living cells, which are encased in a hard substance made of calcium crystals.

Pulp: The living dentin transmits sensation through to the pulp, which is in the center of the tooth and contains the tooth's blood vessels and nerves.

A tooth's enamel normally protects the dentin from exposure to extremes of temperature and pressure. If you wear away the enamel and expose the dentin, it will pass sensation through to the nerves in the pulp more directly. The result can range from a twinge to an excruciating pain.

Sensitivity can be caused by:

  • Overzealous tooth brushing resulting in enamel wear and consequently dentin exposure and wear.
  • Enamel and dentin erosion by acids in the foods and beverages you eat and drink.
  • Tooth decay — the most common cause of sensitivity. Decay destroys enamel and dentin inflaming and infecting the living tissues of the pulp, which become increasingly painful.

What can you do to make your teeth less sensitive?

  • Use a soft bristle tooth brush, and brush the affected teeth gently to remove all bacterial plaque. We can advise you on safe and effective brushing techniques.
  • Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride strengthens tooth surfaces and makes them more resistant to sensitivity and decay.
  • Ask us about professionally applied fluoride varnishes or filling materials that can cover and replace sensitive or lost tooth structure.

Of course, if the problem is caused by tooth decay, make an appointment with us to remove the decay and place a filling in the sensitive teeth.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sensitive teeth. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”