Does eating ice cream or taking a sip of hot coffee or tea make your teeth hurt? Is brushing or flossing uncomfortable? If so, you may have sensitive teeth.
Various causes of sensitive teeth include:
• Tooth decay
• Fractured teeth
• Old fillings
• Gum/periodontal disease
• Worn tooth enamel
• Exposed tooth roots
Normally, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth above the gum line. Under the gum line, a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is a layer called dentin.
Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and when dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum, microscopic tubules in the dentin layer allow heat or cold or certain types of food to reach the nerves and cells inside of the tooth. Dentin can also be exposed when gums recede, resulting in hypersensitivity.
Sensitive teeth can usually be treated, depending on the cause of the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:
• Desensitizing toothpaste. This type of toothpaste contains compounds that help block transmission of sensations from the tooth surface to the nerve. This usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is noticeably reduced.
• Fluoride gel. An in-office technique which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
• A crown, inlay or bonding. These types of restorations may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity.
• Surgical gum grafting. If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
• Root canal. If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means,