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Tooth Sensitivity Treatment

The lifestyle choices made by most people these days increase the chances of tooth sensitivity. In medical terms, this condition is known as dentine hypersensitivity and is now a fully treatable condition. The most important thing is to understand what dentine hypersensitivity actually means. A patient with tooth sensitivity experiences sharp pain that is short and transient even when there is no evident dental deformity. This pain is caused by a stimulus that generally does not cause any reaction. This type of stimulus is called a non-noxious stimulus. The condition is characterized by lessening of the pain as soon as the stimulus is removed.
Hypersensitivity of the teeth works on the same principle as Brännström's hydrodynamic theory. This theory states that when a stimulus is applied, a change of pressure or sudden disturbance is created in the liquid that fills the dentine tubules. The consequent movement in this fluid reaches dental nerve fibers causing the sudden jolt of pain. The movement of the fluid in the dentine tubule may be caused due to heat, cold, pressure changes or even air. If the stimulus is cold, then the fluid contracts and if the stimulus is hot, the liquid tends to expand. In either case a disturbance is caused, resulting in a sharp, short jolt.

Tooth Sensitivity : Symptoms & Causes

Erosion of the enamel is the primary cause of dental hypersensitivity. Dentin which is located just below the enamel is quite sensitive by nature as it is surrounded by dental pulp and the root canals. When the enamel gets corroded, it exposes the dentin causing sensitivity of the teeth. When dentin is exposed, the tubules open and may react to stimuli as explained by Brännström's hydrodynamic theory. There are many factors that expose the dentin.
The primary cause of dentin exposure is gingival recession. This is commonly known as receding gums. In this condition, the roots of the teeth come to the surface and cause erosion of the cementum around the teeth. As a result, tubules are opened resulting in the movement of the fluid within.
Consuming food that is corrosive in nature is also a reason for the enamel to be eroded. Any food item with critical pH value below 5.5 can act as a corrosive agent. The enamel of the tooth is very resistant under normal circumstances but becomes vulnerable to abrasion when food with low pH value is consumed. Excessive intake of carbonated drinks also causes corrosion and subsequently exposes the dentin making the tooth sensitive.
There are a lot of internal factors that can contribute to the loss of enamel. The most common reason is regurgitation. This is a condition in which acids of the stomach are pumped back into the digestive pipe. The acids rise into the teeth cavity and act as corrosive agents. These acids tend to lower the pH value of the mouth quickly, thereby allowing the enamel to become vulnerable to erosion. Some people have the habit of grinding teeth. This habit could also contribute towards abrasion of the enamel and lead to sensitivity.
Sometimes chipping of the tooth or some kinds of filling can also expose the dentin. Brushing too hard can corrode the enamel gradually, thereby leading to sensitivity of the teeth.
Examining for dental sensitivity
The primary concern with dentine hypersensitivity is that not many patients recognize it as a condition that requires medical attention. In most cases, dentine sensitivity is discovered by chance when a person visits the dentist for a completely different reason. It is impossible to determine the extent of sensitivity through routine tests. It is only through discussions and detailed questioning that a dentist can decide the extent of sensitivity that an individual suffers. Based on the answers given by the patient, hypersensitivity is divided on a scale as follows:
  • 0 - No discomfort, but stimuli is noticed
  • 1- Mild discomfort due to stimulus
  • 2 - Marked discomfort caused by air blast
  • 3 - Marked discomfort that lasts longer than 10 seconds

Depending on this rating, a suitable procedure for treatment is selected.  

Tooth Sensitivity: Treatment & Prevention

There are many desensitizing toothpastes that can help relieve tooth sensitivity. These toothpastes usually contain nitrate, fluoride or strontium in some form to help control the condition. Relief with the use of desensitizing toothpaste is temporary and can only last until you rinse the mouth. If you experience extreme pain and sensitivity, it is a good idea to take the toothpaste on your fingertip or a cotton swab and rub over a sensitive area.  You even get mouthwash with nitrate salts or fluoride to reduce dental sensitivity. 
Dental procedures to cure hypersensitivity
  • A dental sealant or filling may be applied to cover the exposed part of the dentin
  • In case of receding gums, a bonding agent is used to seal the gum and protect the exposed region
  • If the cause of erosion is teeth grinding, a specially designed night retainer can be used

The more complex procedures include iontophoresis where the chemical, usually fluoride, is delivered through the tooth using a small electric charge. Laser treatments are also known to provide considerable relief from hypersensitivity.

Prevention of Dentin hypersensitivity

Optimum oral health is the best way to avoid sensitivity. Keeping the teeth free from plaque, using soft toothbrushes and flossing the teeth regularly are simple dental hygiene habits that help control sensitivity. People who habitually suck candy, chew gum or take snuff are at the risk of developing hypersensitivity. Snuff or tobacco is considered more harmful than cigarettes and must be avoided for the sake of health in totality.


1) What is tooth sensitivity?

Also known as dentinal hypersensitivity or root sensi​tivity, tooth sensitivity is a very common problem. It is usually caused when the root area of the tooth gets exposed due to the problem of receding gums or periodontitis. In such cases, whenever someone eats something too hot or too cold, he’d feel a sudden painful sensation in the affected tooth/teeth area.


2) What triggers tooth sensitivity?

It occurs when the dentin of the tooth gets exposed due to dental problems like receding gums, periodontitis. When the root or the dentin of the tooth gets exposed, it is left without the protective layer of enamel like the crowns of the teeth. What it is left with is a rather sensitive layer of covering called the cementum which once lost causes your teeth to become sensitive. Rigorous brushing of teeth or excessive consumption of acidic food items like sweetened colas and fruit juices, grinding or clenching of teeth and orthodontic treatments are few other reasons that can trigger tooth sensitivity among individuals.


3) What can be done to minimize tooth sensitivity?

If the sensation in the teeth has become painful and bearable over a period of time, you must visit your dentist. A dentist will not only suggest you the best treatment for the same but also ways in which you can further control it. He can suggest you quality toothpastes that are specially formulated for the treatment of sensitive teeth and various other oral aids like fluoride based mouthwash and gel and the kind of toothbrush to use that you can make use of to get rid of the problem.


4) How can I prevent sensitive teeth?

You can reduces the chances of getting sensitive teeth by maintain a proper dental care regime. Having a regular oral hygiene wherein you brush and floss at regular intervals will aid in keeping diseases and problems like receding gums, cavities, periodontitis and gingivitis among others under check; which, going forward, may become the reason for giving you sensitive teeth. Using a fluoride based tooth paste is another way of preventing tooth sensitive. Eating a healthy diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and cutting down on excessive consumption of acid causing foods like colas and sweetened juices is also recommended to have sensitivity free teeth.


5) Is tooth sensitivity a common dental problem?

Yes it is. In fact a majority of people deal with it on a daily basis. But there are several ways and methods using which you can easily reverse the problem and get back to living a normal life. There are specially formulated toothpastes for sensitive teeth that are easily available in the market that effectively aids in alleviating the problem. If nothing helps, visiting your dentist is always recommended as he can suggest you treatments and dietary changes that will help you restore the health of your teeth.


6) Is tooth sensitivity a sign of a more serious dental problem?

If you wince once in a while when eating ice cream or something hot like soup, there is nothing to worry about. However if the problem is a constant one and leaves you with a painful sensation in more than one tooth then it could be a sign for something more serious like gingivitis, periodontitis or gum disease, tooth abscess or receding gums. A visit to your dentist will help you analyse the cause of the problem and provide you with effective solutions on how to treat the problem and stop your teeth from further decay or problems.   


7) Can brushing too hard cause sensitive teeth?

Regular brushing is good for the health of your teeth and gums but overdoing it in a harsh and rigorous manner can cause damage to them in the form of tooth abrasion or tooth sensitivity. Vigorous brushing causes the wear and tear of the enamel of the teeth, exposing the sensitive root area of the teeth to damage and painful sensations. It is therefore always recommended to gently brush the teeth with a soft-bristled tooth brush and not overdo the act in the hope to make your teeth sparkly white.


8) Can tooth whitening cause sensitivity?

Tooth have two kinds of layers on them. The hard or the outer layer is known as the enamel and soft or the inner layer is called the dentin. Any wear and tear of the outer layer of the tooth exposes the dentin or root of the tooth to tooth sensitivity. Teeth whitening temporarily makes the enamel more permeable exposing the dentin. Teeth whitening puts pressure on the teeth and if not done properly can cause irritation in the gum area leaving it inflamed and swollen. The pressure put on the tooth during the process can make it sore. But with proper care this problem is reversible and preventable.  ​

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