During National Ice Cream Month in July, did you experience tooth sensitivity? Unfortunately, if you have tooth sensitivity, you likely find it painful to enjoy cold treats like ice cream or hot beverages like coffee. But what is life without ice cream or coffee?
According to Thomas J. Salinas, D.D.S., for the Mayo Clinic, “Sensitive teeth are typically the result of worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots. Sometimes, however, tooth discomfort is caused by other factors, such as a cavity, a cracked or chipped tooth, a worn filling, or gum disease.”
At our Houston dentist office, we have treated several patients who have sensitive teeth (also known as dentin hypersensitivity). In fact, statistics suggest dentists see more than 3 million US cases of dentin sensitivity per year, and more than half of their patients complain of tooth sensitivity. In other words, you are not alone in your suffering. But, hopefully, you also keyed into the word “treated.” Fortunately, there are a variety of treatment options for those suffering from sensitive teeth.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Essentially, tooth sensitivity occurs when the dentin (located under the layer of tooth enamel) in our teeth is exposed. This allows what we eat or drink to reach the exposed area and hit our nerves inside the tooth. Likewise, if our gums recede and the dentin is exposed, we can experience tooth sensitivity.
With that being said, tooth sensitivity can happen to anyone. Issues such as cavities, cracked teeth, enamel erosion, root erosion, gingivitis, plaque buildup, and receding gums are all things can cause the dentin to be exposed.
Additionally, there are some things that patients do that can lead to tooth sensitivity. For example, if you brush too hard or use a toothbrush with bristles that are too hard, you may make the enamel wear away, thus exposing the dentin. Similarly, if you clench or grind your teeth, this can wear down the enamel and lead to tooth sensitivity.
Houston dentists also have many patients report tooth sensitivity after a teeth whitening treatment. Live Science reports, “Teeth-whitening treatments — done either in a dentist’s office or using an over-the-counter product — contain harsh chemicals that remove stains, but they can also remove the enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity.” This is why Houston dental offices sometimes apply a desensitizing gel before whitening.
At-Home Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity
One of the most common ways to treat sensitive teeth at home is with a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. There are many desensitizing kinds of toothpaste available over the counter. The American Dental Association explains, “This contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.” It is wise to ask your Houston dental care team for recommendations.
If your tooth sensitivity appears to be related to tooth grinding, start wearing a mouth guard – especially while you sleep. If you think you are using a toothbrush with bristles that are too hard, swap it for one with soft bristles. And, make sure you brush your teeth with a softer hand. You may also need to put teeth whitening on a pause.
For relief, it is also wise to stop eating and drinking highly acidic things. Not only do these cause an increase in your tooth sensitivity, but they also attack the enamel. If you do eat or drink something acidic, don’t rush to brush your teeth. It may seem like a weird rule, but there is truth to it. If you brush immediately after ingesting something acidic, you may hurt the enamel even more. Instead, drink some water.
Possible Dental Treatments in Houston for Sensitive Teeth
However, while at home remedies may provide some relief, they will not correct tooth sensitivity that is due to a dental issue. If your tooth sensitivity is due to cavities, cracked teeth, enamel erosion, root erosion, gingivitis, plaque buildup, or receding gums, you will likely need a dental treatment to ease your pain.
In some cases, your Houston dentist may be able to apply a fluoride gel to help strengthen the enamel. If your case warrants it, your dentist may also prescribe a prescription fluoride for you to use at home.
In cases where the tooth is sensitive because of other issues, such as a cavity or exposed root, you will need to fix the dental issue first. For example, you may need a filling for your cavity or a crown for a cracked tooth.
If your tooth sensitivity is a result of receding gums, you may need to have a surgical gum graft. This is done to protect the root and ease sensitivity.
Unfortunately, some people may have more serious tooth sensitivity, which will require a root canal. Typically, this is only used if other treatments are ineffective, but it is proven to be an effective way to end tooth sensitivity.
Ways to Prevent Tooth Sensitivity
Ultimately, the best way to prevent tooth sensitivity is to take good care of your teeth. This means you should brush your teeth twice a day using a toothbrush with soft bristles and with a toothpaste with fluoride. You should also use a mouthwash with fluoride daily. With your oral care in mind, you should also make a point to visit your Houston dentist office regularly. Your dentist can help prevent a problem before it starts if you maintain regular cleanings and check-ups.
When it comes to tooth sensitivity, the problem will get worse – especially if it is the result of an underlying dental issue. That’s why you must talk to your dentist about tooth sensitivity, so he or she can look for potential reasons. Even if you find some relief by treating your tooth sensitivity at home or by avoiding hot and cold foods and drinks, you will not find long term relief until you visit a Houston dentist.
If eating ice cream has become a pain, make an appointment with Greenspoint Dental in Houston today.