Tooth sensitivity, also known as Dental Hypersensitivity is a common dental problem that shows symptoms like discomfort or twinging pain in teeth, when the teeth come in contact with certain substances and temperatures. The discomfort and sensitivity in teeth may be due to damaged enamel or exposed roots. However, this can also be because of other problems like cavity, post dental procedure effects or a chipped tooth. Tooth sensitivity causes mild to severe discomfort or temporary pain in performing daily activities such as brushing, flossing, eating and drinking.
Cause of Tooth Sensitivity
Dentin, the most important component of our teeth, lies underneath the enamel layer. Dentinal tubules are fine branching tubes connect the pulp and the enamel and cemental junctions. The dentin is exposed if the enamel or outer layer is damaged or the gums loosen or recede. The tubules of dentin allow heat, cold or acidic substances to reach the nerves inside the tooth, causing sharp pain & discomfort.
Factors that contribute to tooth sensitivity can be using hard-bristled toothbrush, gum disease, cracked teeth, clenching, over-use of tooth-whitening products, regular use of strong mouthwash, acidic or aerated foods etc.
Treatment for Dental Sensitivity
We believe that, to cure Dental Sensitivity, the underlying cause has to be treated. Medication can only control the degree of pain. Dental procedures that can treat tooth sensitivity are:
- Bonding: Exposed root surfaces are treated by applying bonding resin that fixes tooth decay. Local anesthetic is sometimes administered.
- Fluoride gel or varnish: Fluoride varnish is applied to exposed areas which strengthens the enamel and dentin. Fluoride foam or gel is placed into a mouth tray; and the person is made to wait for 3-5 minutes.
- Surgical gum graft: It is a simple periodontal surgery that can either be a connective tissue graft or free gingival graft. In both cases a tissue is cut from elsewhere in the mouth and transplanted to the area where there is gum recession. This protects the roots and reduces sensitivity.
- Crowns or Inlays: Inlays are used for minor cavity; a restoration or filling consisting of gold, porcelain or cured composite resin is cemented in the cavity. In case of large cavity, a crown or cap is used to secure the filing and encircle the tooth or dental implant.
- Root canal: When other treatments fail, this is a last-resort but most successful treatment for severe tooth sensitivity. Root canal treats the tooth’s soft core pulp and tooth is then sealed and secured. There is an immediate post-procedure discomfort that lasts only for 3-4 days.
- Biteguard or Teeth guard- it’s a myofunctional appliance to be worn on mostly bottom teeth to train the jaw muscles from clenching teeth as clenching (bruxism) damages the dentinal tubules and causes sensitivity. The appliance needs to be worn for atleast a month or two to train the jaw muscles.
Dental care at home
We advise our patients that routine dental care at home is utmost necessary. Like, use a soft-bristled toothbrush & floss daily. Avoid highly coarse toothpaste, and excessive brushing. If you have the habit of grinding your teeth, use a mouth guard. Use of a prescribed desensitizing toothpaste can block the pain.
Avoid self-diagnosis and neglect. Seek a professional’s help and do not delay the cure.