Help for Sensitive Teeth

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

Do you suffer from sensitive teeth? Technically called “dentinal hypersensitivity,” this intermittent sensation affects people when they eat, drink or touch their teeth. At least one in seven adults suffer from this painful sensation, primarily in response to hot or cold foods. But today dentistry can offer several effective treatments.

Dental sensitivity is often caused by enamel loss, exposure of the tooth root surface or changes in the dental pulp (nerve). Enamel loss can be caused by wear on the chewing surfaces of the teeth, abrasion from improper toothbrushing, erosion, exposure of the teeth to acidic foods or stomach regurgitation, or tooth grinding.

Exposure of the root surface may result from recession of the gums due to aging, or chronic gum disease, a poorly positioned tooth, periodontal surgery, or incorrect toothbrushing habits.

There are effective treatments for tooth sensitivity. Initially, treatment involves ruling out other possible dental problems such as a cavity, tooth grinding, a dying nerve or a fractured tooth. Treatment also includes over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste for two to six weeks. Potassium nitrate-containing toothpastes that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance are good choices.

If further treatment is necessary, we may choose to apply topical fluoride or an oxalate treatment. Another effective technique is bonding, which involves applying a tooth-colored composite or porcelain material to the tooth surface to seal the exposed dentin or root surface. If you have sensitive teeth, give your dentist a call to discuss your options.

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