What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity usually presents as a sudden sharp pain emanating from your teeth, usually in response to eating or drinking.  It is very common – at least 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth in the United States, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.

What causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Each tooth contains four parts. The enamel comprises the visible portion of the tooth and is the hardest part of the tooth. The dentin is the layer below the enamel. It is softer than the enamel. The cementum a layer of material on the root of your teeth to help anchor the teeth into the jaw. Cementum is softer than dentin.  The pulp is in the center of the tooth and contains soft connective tissue, blood vessels, and nerves.

The key factors that lead to tooth sensitivity are essentially gum recession and loss of cementum and/or enamel. Gum recession can be caused by periodontal disease or by brushing too hard. Loss of enamel, on the other hand, occurs when enamel is worn down.  Once these conditions occur, the pain of tooth sensitivity can be triggered by heat, cold, change in pressure, sweet or sour foods and drinks, which, because of the loss gums, cementum and/or enamel is transmitted to the nerves and received as pain.

Gum recession and loss of cementum and enamel can be caused by several things:

  • Brushing too hard or using a incompetent toothbrush.
  • Gum recession which exposes dentin from periodontal disease.
  • Gingivitis which exposes tooth roots.
  • Cracked teeth which become filled with bacteria and infect the pulp of the tooth.
  • Teeth grinding or clenching.
  • Improper Tooth-whitening products or improper use of same
  • Plaque buildup.
  • Long-term use of mouthwash which contains acids or acidic foods.
  • Dental procedures may cause sensitivity for short periods of time.

How Do We Treat Tooth Sensitivity?

Because there are so many causes of tooth sensitivity, proper treatment means identifying and addressing the underlying cause.  So for example, if nighttime teeth grinding is the cause, it would be important to first address the grinding.  Once the underlying cause is addressed, the patient’s sensitivity can also be relieved in several ways:

  • Silver Diamine Fluoride is very effective and FDA approved to treat tooth sensitivity.
  • Bonding, crowns or inlays which can fix exposed teeth structures if they are the cause.
  • Fluoride gel or varnish.
  • Surgical gum graft in the case of receded gums.
  • A Root canal; This is a last-resort treatment for severe tooth sensitivity that has not been helped by other methods.

Don’t suffer when you don’t need to! For more information, or if you wish to schedule an appointment with Dr. Laskis, please contact us today.


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