Tooth Sensitivity Causes and Treatments
Do you know what a toothache feels like?
If you’ve been diligent with brushing, flossing and scheduling regular dental exams, you may not realize that between 20 and 28 percent of Americans suffer from periodic toothaches or persistent tooth sensitivity. The information was contained in a 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control, based on information from a National Health Interview Survey conducted in 2008. Toothache and tooth sensitivity are the dental complaints mentioned most often across all races and ethnicities, according to the report, with broken or missing teeth the second most frequent dental problem.
There are various reasons for persistent tooth sensitivity, and it’s not just a matter of luck. If you have sensitive teeth — and many people report some sort of sensitivity, at least on occasion — you may find that even gentle brushing and regular flossing can cause unwelcome pain. Hot or cold foods can cause sharp twinges of pain, even though it is usually fleeting and avoidable. But who wants to go through life without hot chocolate and iced tea? If, however, you cringe at the thought of ice cream, hesitate to enjoy corn on the cob or resist other good foods out of fear, it is time to ask your dentist for advice.
If your particular sensitivity keeps you from regular dental appointments, and means that you forego recommended brushing and flossing, you should definitely try to identify the underlying causes of the pain, and then take action to remedy the problem.
Some people are plagued with sensitive teeth from early childhood. There can, however, be other reasons for tooth pain, and sensitivity might be the result of enamel wear and erosion or exposed tooth roots. Your dentist should be able to easily identify such problems. Also a dental professional can determine if a cavity or a chipped or cracked tooth is the cause. Temporary sensitivity can also be the result of other extensive dental repair or reconstructive work.
Whatever the specific reason for your pain, our dentist is your first line of defense against it. At Briglia Dental Group, we are as committed to helping our patients deal with common tooth sensitivity as we are to assuring that the dental procedures we perform in our office are effective and painless.
Best Ways to Address Sensitivity
Because there is really no way to measure tooth sensitivity, our first suggestions involve the mechanics of daily oral hygiene. We suggest gentle brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled brush and a fluoride toothpaste. We routinely demonstrate proper brushing procedures for young children, and we are always happy to answer your questions. Know, though, that you do not have to apply pressure to your teeth, or to scrub them unnecessarily for brushing to be effective. It is the regularity with which you care for teeth, rather than the force you apply that makes the difference.
If changing your toothpaste, your toothbrush and your brushing habits doesn’t solve your pain problem, there are other measures we can take:
- Fluoride Treatment: In our office, we can apply fluoride to sensitive tooth surfaces. It strengthens the enamel and helps to prevent erosion from acidic foods and normal wear. If your pain is more severe, we might prescribe a stronger fluoride toothpaste or rinse for home use.
- Root Bonding: Applying a bonding resin to an exposed tooth root can alleviate pain, but this procedure can only be performed in our office, and it might require local anesthetic.
- Gum Grafting: This is another surgical procedure that is rarely recommended. If a tooth’s root is exposed and causes pain because of lost gum tissue, it is sometimes possible to graft a small amount of tissue from another location to cover the root.
- Root Canal: While performing a root canal may seem like an extreme solution, it actually is the most effective way to deal with localized severe sensitivity, and the traditional method of treating a “toothache.” The endodontic procedure removes the inflamed pulp and damaged portion of the tooth structure. It eliminates the pain, saves the tooth, and usually requires no further action. Root canals may have a bad reputation, but they do not have to be feared and, usually, cause no more pain or problem than an average large filling.
Because, in our practice, we see patients from childhood through senior years, we can offer some additional tips to ensure that your teeth remain healthy and beautiful throughout life. Because teeth are living parts of the body, they can be damaged over time and through improper care. Tooth enamel, although normally strong and resistant to damage, can erode, crack, break or wear thin. Excess acidity in the mouth is one culprit; unchecked tooth grinding is another. Accidents and some illnesses contribute to tooth problems. Poor oral hygiene and poor overall health add to the mix.
We sometimes suggest limiting consumption of extremely acidic foods and drinks, including citrus fruits and carbonated beverages. Drink those beverages through a straw to minimize contact with tooth enamel, or chase acidic foods with milk or water to counteract the effects.
Our dental professionals are dedicated to helping you maintain your healthy set of teeth and your bright smile throughout a lifetime. If you would like to discuss any persistent tooth sensitivity with our dentist, call us at (610) 692-4440 or click here to schedule an appointment. Please don’t ever think that you should ignore the pain associated with toothache or sensitive teeth. We’ll help to find a painlesss dental solution so that your smile will be genuine!