Sensitive teeth and how to treat them

Teeth can become sensitive for a number of reasons – small cracks or chips, cavities, a loose filling, or enamel that has become eroded over time; gingivitis can also create sensitivities in and around the teeth. Luckily, there are a number of ways to treat tooth pain and sensitivity. If you are experiencing pain while eating, drinking, or doing nothing at all, call your dentist to set up an appointment. A quick evaluation will help them determine what kind of problem is causing your tooth pain, and he or she will also be able to guide you towards the kinds of products or procedures will help resolve your problem.

What are the treatments that my dentist might recommend?

The treatments that your dentist will recommend to alleviate tooth sensitivity will depend on what is causing the pain in the first place. If the pain you are experiencing is due to enamel that has been worn down over time due to a long history of acidic food or beverage consumption (coffee, wine, citrus and sugary beverages can all contribute to enamel erosion), your dentist might check for cavities that have established themselves in your teeth and fill those with a composite material. Treating a cavity not only prevents further damage to your teeth from occurring, it is also an effective way to eliminate the pain it was causing.

If damaged enamel has not resulted in cavities but is causing sensitivity in and of itself, your dentist may choose to use fluoride treatments to strengthen your teeth and thereby reduce the sensitivity you are experiencing. This is often done in the dentist’s office but, in some cases, it may be possible to treat tooth sensitivity with at-home fluoride treatments using trays that your dentist will custom-make just for you.

What if I have a more extensive problem that is causing tooth sensitivity?

While some tooth sensitivity is due to early-stage cavities or simple enamel loss, there are of course more extensive problems that can cause pain in and around the teeth. If gum disease or tooth decay is left untreated, it can result in exposed root surfaces, which can be quite painful and require more extensive dental procedures to resolve the issue. In these cases, your dentist might opt for a bonding procedure, in which he or she will cover and protect the exposed root with a dental bonding material.

Untreated cavities and cracked teeth can also allow infection to take root in the inside of your teeth, where the sensitive soft pulp is located. If the pulp has become diseased and needs to be removed, your dentist might choose to perform a root canal, a procedure in which he or she will drill out the diseased material, fill it with a composite material, and possibly cap it with a crown to protect the area from further damage.

In conjunction with these treatments, your dentist might also recommend that you use desensitizing toothpaste on a daily basis. While it won’t provide immediate relief in the way that an over-the-counter pain medication like Advil or Tylenol might, over time it will reduce sensitivity via special ingredients that actually block or mask the pain that you feel. This means that while desensitizing toothpaste is a good option for managing symptoms, it will not fix any of the problems that cause the pain, which is why it is always important to visit your dentist for a check-up before simply treating the symptoms you’re experiencing.

If the pain you’re experiencing is due to gum disease rather than actual tooth pain, you may have to address the loss of gum tissue, which is best remedied via surgical gum graft. In this procedure, your dentist will graft a small portion of gum tissue taken from a healthy section of your gums and surgically attach it to where more tissue is needed.

How can I prevent tooth sensitivity?

The best way to manage tooth sensitivity, of course, is to prevent it from happening. Good oral hygiene in the form of regular brushing and flossing can help fend off these contributing factors, so be sure to take these preventative steps to keep tooth sensitivity at bay. Other things you can do to maintain healthy and pain-free teeth is to either avoid acidic foods and beverages or to rinse your mouth after consuming them, and to brush appropriately with a soft-bristled toothbrush. If you think you may be brushing your teeth too vigorously, ask your dentist or dental hygienist the next time you have a check-up to give you a quick refresher on the amount of pressure you should be using to brush your teeth. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so don’t be afraid to ask if you have these kinds of questions.

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