Are your teeth sensitive to hot and cold? Or, have you recently had a tooth filled, and still suffer that “ouch” feeling when eating or drinking something hot or cold? You may be dealing with a problem caused by exposure of a tooth’s dentin, the part of the tooth that covers the nerves and protects your teeth from pressure and temperature changes. Dentin is most often caused by gum recession and contains nerve fibers. So when it’s exposed, the dentin is reacting to heat, cold or touch. The “ouch” could be a simple ache or it may escalate to unbearable pain.

Improper Brushing

Excessive or improper brushing can be causes of recession, particularly if you have genetically thin gum tissues. Once exposed, dentin can become irritated from some foods such as sodas, candies, certain citrus fruits, or even a worn or hard bristle toothbrush. Root surfaces can become inflamed from sweets and are vulnerable to erosion by acids. You probably notice more sensitivity when eating ice cream, due to the combination of cold and sweet.

About Dentin and Tooth Decay

Dentin is composed of tiny little tubules that contain living cells encased in a hard bone-like substance of the dentin. Although tooth sensitivity is still being studied, it’s believed that pain is felt by differences in pressure set up from the outside of the tooth to the inside (the pulp). Tooth sensitivity can be caused by decay. Once decay works into your tooth structure, it eventually invades the pulp chamber which contains nerves. The decay becomes irritated and intensifies the level of pain. Once infection sets in, the nerve may become infected and die, making the pain extremely severe.

Removing Decay Before Getting a Filling

Before placing a filling on your tooth, the decay needs to be removed, which can lead to sensitivity. Your dentist may often place a lining or desensitizing material for protection against sensitivity. Often it takes a week or more for your tooth to relax. Secondary dentin is produced as the teeth age and become less sensitive, causing the pulp to constrict and get smaller. As the dentin thickens and becomes less absorptive, tooth sensitivity is reduced, allowing you to enjoy your ice cream once again. Additional treatment may be necessary if your tooth does not improve after you had it filled. Your dentist may suggest a root canal (endodontic ) treatment if you are still in pain. Prolonged pain, increased sensitivity from heat, biting or exposure to cold, can be signals that the pupal (nerve) tissue inside the tooth is damaged and cannot be reversed.

Decreasing Sensitivity

You can decrease the sensitivity by taking special care of the affected teeth. Use a soft brush with gentle action and try not to brush too often, or test not brushing for a couple days to help eliminate some pain. Remember, the goal of brushing is to remove plaque.

Use Toothpaste With Fluoride

Since fluoride increases the strength of tooth surfaces, always select toothpaste that contains fluoride. Using fluoride also makes your teeth more resistant to attack by sweets, acids, and excessive brushing. For the affected tooth, try using the fluoride toothpaste like an ointment, allowing the tooth a more concentrated and longer time period when brushing. Although some toothpaste consists of potassium products for sensitivity, per studies, their effectiveness is variable.

Other Treatments

There are other treatments available for dentin sensitivity, ranging from concentrated professionally-applied fluoride varnishes, to chemically bonded filling materials to cover and replace your lost tooth. This treatment is meant to create a barrier to cover the sensitive area.

Always discuss your concerns with your dentist. Follow his or her advice to achieve the results for a bright happy and healthy smile.

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About Tri-State Family Dentistry

Tri-State Family Dentistry is dedicated to providing the highest quality dental care possible. Being privately owned since 2009, we don’t experience the corporate pressure that other dental practices have to hit certain revenue numbers. You will never be ‘sold’ dentistry at Tri-State Family Dentistry. After we explain your treatment options, you can make your own decisions.