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Posts for tag: sensitive teeth

By Patrick H. Collins, DDS
September 01, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sensitive teeth  
The3TopCausesforToothSensitivity

Like other living tissue, your teeth can feel. Dentin, the layer below the enamel, houses fluid-filled conduits that transmit temperature or pressure sensations to a nerve network within the tooth’s inner pulp. It’s so effective that incoming sensations must be buffered — “toned down”— to avoid a painful overload of the nerves. The enamel above the gum line and a bone-like substance called cementum below help do this.

Unfortunately, if teeth lose this protection they can become hypersensitive. This can cause a flash of sharp pain while eating or drinking something cold or hot or just biting down.

There are a number of causes for tooth sensitivity, any of which can influence how we treat it. While you’ll need a dental exam to know for sure, your hypersensitivity will more than likely stem from one of these 3 problems.

Periodontal (gum) disease. This is an infection caused by bacterial plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles that accumulates on the teeth due to poor oral hygiene. The inflamed gum tissues weaken and detach from the teeth, causing them to shrink back or recede. This leaves the cementum unprotected, which easily erodes and exposes the dentin to acid and bacteria — and hypersensitivity. Clinically removing the plaque helps the affected gums heal. In extreme cases, the gums may need surgical grafting to regenerate.

Overaggressive brushing. While a lack of oral hygiene can contribute to gum recession, ironically too much hygiene — brushing too hard for too long — can damage your gums and cause them to recede. Brushing really doesn’t require a lot of elbow grease — a gentle scrubbing motion over all tooth surfaces is sufficient to remove plaque. Fine-tuning your brushing will help your gums to recover and heal.

Mouth acid. Although quite strong, enamel has one formidable enemy: acid, which can erode enamel and expose the dentin. Over-indulgence in acidic foods and beverages can make your mouth more acidic; more likely, though, bacterial plaque will again be the culprit, because bacteria excrete an acidic waste product. You can reduce mouth acid with daily brushing and flossing and consuming less acidic foods and beverages.

If you’re experiencing any kind of tooth pain, see us for an examination. We’ll determine the cause and initiate the appropriate treatment to regain your oral health.

If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity: Understanding Your Options.”

By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
August 06, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sensitive teeth  
WhatCausesDentalDiscomfort

Nothing ruins a thirst-quenching cold beverage or a dish of your favorite ice cream like a sudden pang of tooth sensitivity. If you're experiencing this problem — and especially if there are other triggers, like biting down — we encourage you to make an appointment. It could be something harmless and temporary, but it's always prudent to check. At the very least, you'll feel better once the underlying problem is identified and treated if necessary.

Here are some common sources of tooth sensitivity:

  • Enamel erosion — typically caused by acidic beverages/food, regurgitation of stomach acids (due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia), or improper brushing
  • Tooth decay — a sugary diet and poor dental hygiene may be contributing factors
  • Tooth fracture or chipping due to tooth grinding (bruxism) or other trauma
  • Gum recession due to age, improper tooth brushing, or gum disease
  • Filling that needs repair or replacement
  • Residual effects of recent dental work

Some things you can try at home to minimize sensitivity include:

  • Ease up on the toothbrush; a light touch is all that's needed to dislodge daily plaque build-up
  • Try using fluoride-containing toothpaste like an ointment over the affected area (fluoride decreases fluid exchange from the oral environment to the nerve inside the tooth)
  • Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (use judiciously and according to the package insert guidelines)

Discomfort related to recent dental work should resolve on its own; give it several weeks. If you're feeling discomfort for another reason, even if the sensitivity subsides, the underlying cause may still require attention.

If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”

By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
December 05, 2012
Category: Oral Health
WaysYouCanMinimizeToothSensitivity

If you have ever suffered from tooth sensitivity, you know all too well how real the pain can be — anything from a slight twinge to pain that can be downright excruciating. Sensitivity may be experienced several times throughout the day or just every once in a while. However, as we say, a little knowledge can go a long way. And we can provide you with the know-how and steps to help minimize your tooth sensitivity.

One of the first steps we will take is to review your brushing habits, as an improper brushing technique can not only cause tooth sensitivity, but it also can make the sensitivity worse once it is present. We will teach you how to remove dental plaque safely without damaging your delicate gum tissues, which can cause gum recession leaving the dentin exposed. Another step we may take is to provide you with a special toothpaste containing fluoride or one specifically targeted to sensitive teeth. The fluoride increases the strength of tooth surfaces and thus makes teeth more resistant to acid attack and sensitive to sweets. Or if the sensitivity is severe and/or constant, we may need to apply a barrier to cover the sensitive areas. These barriers may range from concentrated fluoride varnishes to bonded filling materials to cover the sensitive areas. If the pain is severe and constant, it may be possible that the pulpal tissue containing the nerves in your tooth are inflamed and you may need a root canal treatment to relieve your pain and save the tooth.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity or have questions about this condition, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Or you can learn more about this topic by reading the article “Sensitive Teeth.”

By Dr. Patrick H. Collins
September 10, 2012
Category: Oral Health
UnderstandingToothSensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is an issue that can range from a slight twinge at times to downright excruciating pain. However, before we continue, understanding the cause of tooth sensitivity is helpful to both relieving and treating it.

Tooth enamel is inert in that it has no nerve supply and thus it protects the teeth from temperature and pressure changes — the main cause of sensitivity. Once it is compromised, worn thin, or exposed due to gum recession, it leaves the delicate nerve fibers within the dentin vulnerable to touch, acid, and temperature change. These nerve fibers most often grab your attention when they come in contact with heat, cold, or a “double whammy” combination of both cold and sweet. They also become sensitive to touch — even the bristles of a soft toothbrush can irritate exposed dentin.

As for the causes of tooth sensitivity, one common cause we see is aggressive brushing. Yes, too much brushing can be bad for you! To be more specific, excessive, improper brushing with a sawing back and forth motion can erode the gum tissues, expose, wear, and even groove the dentin. Another cause for sensitivity can be from the destructive process of tooth decay that eats through the enamel and into the dentin.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity or have questions about this condition, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Or you can learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”