Patients often experience tooth sensitivity, especially during exposure to heat, cold, pressure, or air. This is because enamel (the superficial, mineral-rich outer layer of the tooth) can easily become thin or absent due to a variety of chemical and mechanical agents. While it is ideal for all individuals to have crowns of teeth that are completely coated in this layer of enamel, an individual’s mouth may have exposed dentin (the bulk of the tooth directly underneath the enamel), as well as cementum (root surfaces that can be exposed when there is gum recession present).
Dentin and cementum are less calcified, and consequently, absorb more of the stimuli from external sources that interact with the oral cavity, something that can create sensitivity. Dentin and cementum are also close to the pulp, the innermost layer of the tooth that houses each tooth’s blood, nutrient, and nerve supply.
In order to alleviate discomfort, agents that reduce sensitivity to the teeth are constantly being researched and recommended by dental professionals. This article will identify several treatment options that are commonly offered for sensitivity to the teeth, and, additionally, explain how they work.
Fluoride applications are commonly used to prevent demineralization and, subsequently, are recommended by many dental professionals as a first line of defense against cavities. However, another beneficial use for topical fluoride applications, such as varnishes, gels, and mouth rinses, is to reduce sensitivity to the teeth. Fluoride has been found to block the dentin tubules, which are structures that when open and exposed, absorb the shock that comes with varying stimuli to the teeth. Fluoride ions deposit into these structures, and seal off the tubules so that superficial stimuli does not have as great of an impact on dentin and cementum.
Proper Brushing and Flossing
While brushing and flossing, it is important to exert an adequate, yet gentle amount of pressure while brushing the teeth (especially on the posterior or back teeth, where heavy pressure is often exerted). Proper brushing can prevent gingival recession, the sloughing off of the gum tissue at the area where the crowns and the roots of the teeth meet. The gums are responsible for protecting the roots of the teeth, and, consequently, preventing their recession is an integral way to reduce sensitivity in the mouth.
Reduced Mechanical Wear to the Teeth
Bruxism, or grinding, is one of the main reasons for the erosion of enamel on the surfaces of the teeth. As the enamel is worn off, patches of dentin are often exposed, and sensitivity becomes prevalent. In order to prevent this erosion, night mouth guards are recommended. A dental office can obtain an accurate impression of the teeth and subsequently craft a custom mouth guard. Less expensive, standard-size mouth guards can also be purchased at many drug and grocery stores.
The Use of Sensitivity Toothpastes
Toothpastes that contain small traces of fluoride, as well as other soothing agents, may be effective in temporarily reducing discomfort. These products are easy-to-use, inexpensive, and, when used faithfully, may make a substantial impact at the amount of discomfort a patient experiences due to sensitivity.
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For more information on why tooth sensitivity occurs and how it can be treated, contact Dr. Kerry Goad, your Richarson, TX dentist today!