Have you ever taken a bite of ice cream and felt a sharp pain in your teeth? Does a sip of hot coffee make you wince? If this is something you experience often, you may be suffering from sensitive teeth.
This sensation can be as perplexing as it is frustrating, but the science behind tooth sensitivity is actually quite simple. The tooth root is protected by something called cementum, which is underneath the enamel. Underneath the cementum is dentin, which contains hollow tubes called microscopic tubules. If the enamel and cementum are not there to protect the dentin, these microscopic tubules will allow hot, cold, acidic, or sticky foods into the cells and nerves that reside inside the tooth—causing pain.
The absence of enamel and cementum has numerous causes, such as tooth decay, worn fillings, worn tooth enamel, exposed tooth root, and fractured teeth. Thankfully, there are various ways with which one can fight tooth sensitivity. Here are a few of them:
• Desensitizing toothpaste: a toothpaste that contains compounds which block sensation from transmitting between the tooth surface and the nerve. It typically necessitates multiple applications before one notices a decrease in sensitivity.
• Fluoride gel: this in-office method, in addition to blocking the transmission of sensation, strengthens tooth enamel.
• Surgical gum graft: if the cause of sensitivity is an absence of gum tissue covering the root, this method will safeguard the root and lessen sensitivity.
• Root canal: used only in severe cases, a dentist may recommend this method after all the others have failed to treat the problem.
The bottom line is that tooth sensitivity can occur for a number of reasons, and the only real way to uncover that reason is to see your dentist. If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, make sure to schedule an appointment soon, as the issue could potentially worsen if left untreated.