Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tooth Sensitivity: Reasons and Solutions

Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
If  hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks—or even breathing cold air—causes pain or discomfort, you are experiencing tooth sensitivity. The pain can be sharp, sudden, and shoot deep into the nerve endings of your teeth.

Sensitive teeth occur when the underlying layer of your teeth—the dentin— becomes exposed as a result of receding gum tissue (the protective blanket that covers the tooth roots). The roots, which are not covered by hard enamel, contain thousands of tiny tubules, or channels, leading to the tooth's nerve center, or pulp. These channels allow the stimuli — the hot, cold, or sweet food—to reach the nerve in your tooth, which results in the pain you feel.

Some reasons for tooth sensitivity include:
  • Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush that wears down enamel and causes the dentin to be exposed.
  • Tooth decay near the gum line.
  • Recession of the gums due to periodontal disease, in which the root surface becomes exposed.
  • Gum disease and gingivitis which cause loss of supporting ligaments, exposing teh root surface that leads to the tooth nerve..
  • Chipped or broken teeth that may fill with bacteria from plaque and enter the pulp causing Inflammation.
  • Grinding or clenching your teeth may wear down the enamel and expose underlying dentin.
  • Tooth whitening products can often contribute to sensitive teeth.
  • Age is a factor. Tooth sensitivity is highest between the ages of 25 and 30. 
  • The presence of plaque on the root surfaces can cause sensitivity. 
  •  Some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acids that can worsen tooth sensitivity if you have exposed dentin. The acids further damage the dentin layer of the tooth. If you have dentin sensitivity, ask your dentist about the use of a neutral fluoride solution. 
  •  Regular consumption of foods with a high acid content, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and tea, can cause enamel erosion. 
  •  Finally, sensitivity can occur following teeth cleaning, root planing, crown placement, and tooth restoration. Sensitivity caused by dental procedures is temporary, usually disappearing in four to six weeks.
To reduce or prevent tooth sensitivity, be sure to maintain good oral health with regular teeth cleaning and daily flossing and brushing with a soft-bristled brush. A de-sensitizing fluoride toothpaste, with the ADA Seal of Approval, is also helpful. Limit high-acid food consumption. If you grind your teeth at night, be sure to use a mouth guard. And finally, be sure to see your dentist at regular intervals; we recommend a visit once every six months.

Dr. Benjamin Coon, D.D.S.
Glenwood Meadows Dental
40 Market Street, Suite A
Glenwood Springs, CO  81601

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