As the weather becomes warmer with the arrival of summer, many people like to enjoy refreshing summer snacks like ice cream, popsicles, snow cones, and smoothies, just to name a few. However, if you are plagued with sensitive teeth, then consuming these cool snacks may be anything but enjoyable. In fact, eating or drinking anything too cold, hot, sweet, sticky, or acidic can cause you to experience a sharp, throbbing pain inside one or more teeth. This unfortunate sensation is known as tooth sensitivity and it is estimated to affect around 40 million Americans.
Tooth sensitivity happens when stimuli is able to pass through the enamel. Underneath the enamel is the dentin layer, which contains microscopic tunnels that lead to the inside of the tooth. When stimuli passes through the enamel and reaches the dentin layer, it then travels through these tunnels where it reaches the inside of the tooth and the nerve. The deep, throbbing pain associated with tooth sensitivity is the result of the tooth nerve being irritated.
Since tooth sensitivity is uncomfortable and can keep people from enjoying their favorite foods and drinks, many people want to know how to get rid of this annoying problem. In order to eliminate tooth sensitivity, however, you must first know what is causing the sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can have a variety of causes, including:
- Gum recession/exposed tooth roots
- Fractured tooth
- A filling in need of replacement
- Worn or thin enamel
To determine the cause of your sensitivity, it is recommended to first see your dentist. This is because certain causes of sensitivity, such as cavities, tooth fractures, and fillings in need of replacement, will need to be addressed. In these cases, tooth sensitivity is merely a symptom that will disappear once the cavity has been filled, the fractured tooth has been restored, or the filling has been replaced. This is because making these minor repairs will ensure that stimuli are no longer able to enter the tooth and cause nerve irritation.
However, some cases of tooth sensitivity are not as easy to eliminate. For example, cases where tooth sensitivity is caused by exposed tooth roots or thin enamel. While these cases cannot be eliminated with minor repairs, they can be treated using other methods. If the cause of your tooth sensitivity is thin enamel or exposed tooth roots, here are a few things you can do:
Fluoride treatments are usually applied topically after you have your teeth cleaned. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel to make it more resistant to the acids found in food and produced by decay-causing bacteria. Although fluoride cannot replenish lost tooth enamel, it can help to prevent future enamel wear, which will prevent your sensitivity from becoming worse.
Another way to manage tooth sensitivity is to use a desensitizing toothpaste that is formulated specifically to reduce tooth sensitivity. Desensitizing toothpastes contain stannous fluoride and/or potassium nitrate, which are two ingredients known for reducing sensitivity. Stannous fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel, while potassium nitrate physically blocks the tunnels that lead to the inside of the tooth in order to prevent stimuli from aggravating the nerve. Desensitizing toothpastes are also free of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which is used to make toothpaste foamy, but can increase tooth sensitivity.
Try Cosmetic Dentistry
In cases where your enamel is extremely thin or severely worn, it may be beneficial to consider cosmetic dentistry. Cosmetic dental treatments like inlays, onlays, veneers, and crowns can all be used to create a boundary between your natural tooth structure and the stimuli responsible for tooth sensitivity. In fact, some people get veneers to relieve sensitivity since veneers act like a shield for teeth. If you don’t want to do anything too dramatic, cosmetic bonding is another option that can help decrease sensitivity. Ultimately, you will want to speak with your dentist to determine which treatment would work best for you.
Get a Gum Graft
In cases where your sensitivity is caused by exposed tooth roots, you may want to consider having a gum graft. During a gum graft, new tissue is grafted over the exposed tooth roots in order to once again cover them. Once the graft has healed and the tooth roots are covered, then your tooth sensitivity should resolve itself. However, your dentist may recommend trying other less-invasive procedures first, such as a periodontal cleaning.