Solving Problems with Sensitive Teeth
It’s good to have a sensitive friend who knows when we are in pain.
It’s not so good to have sensitive teeth, because they can be such a pain!
If you have sensitive teeth, you know that something as simple as inhaling air against them can hurt, and let’s not even talk about what happens with ice cream or hot coffee. What can cause even the healthiest looking teeth to be so hypersensitive? The blame generally comes down to one thing: the root of your tooth has become exposed.
The enamel covers the portions of your tooth above the gum line. Below that is the weaker cementum, protected by your gums.
Layers, They’re Not Just for Haircuts
What we see when we look at our teeth, hopefully, is the outermost layer called enamel. This tough material is the hardest surface on our body. It protects the entire visible structure of our tooth. We may imagine that our tooth has this protective layer on its entire surface, but once you look under the gum line, our teeth are not protected by enamel. Are we starting to feel a bit vulnerable now?
Covering the roots of our teeth is a layer known as cementum. While enamel is tough stuff, cementum is not. Protecting the cementum is our gums, or gingival. Under the layers of enamel and cementum is the layer called dentin. Dentin isn’t as dense as enamel and it consists of many canals. The last layer of our teeth is called the pulp. The pulp is where the nerves and blood supply for the teeth are located.
That seems like a lot of layers, but really there are just three at any point – the pulp, covered by the dentin, covered by either the enamel above the gum line or the cementum under the gum line. Do you see where this is going? If our gums recede, that poor defenseless cementum is exposed and can easily wear away. Then that rush of air, that cold ice cream, that sip of hot coffee makes contact with our sensitive dentin and its little canals. That temperature change affects the nerve and all of a sudden a part of our tooth that should be protected feels pain. And we feel it too, to the point that we may come to dread air on our teeth, or that yummy lick of ice cream or that hot cup of coffee. Now that you’re aware, you probably want to protect that cementum!
Receding gums or hairlines — both are bad news!
How can we prevent our gums from receding? One of the simplest ways is to always purchase soft-bristled toothbrushes and learn proper brushing techniques. The trained staff at Carmichael’s Marconi Dental Group are happy to critique your brushing style during your routine exam. Over-brushing with a hard or even medium toothbrush is bad news for our gums. Brushing twice a day is usually sufficient. At the same time, learn to be gentle and keep your mouth happy.
Our quest for an over-the-counter remedy for stained or yellowed teeth is another reason our gums are running from us in fright. Whiter teeth is the goal and the stores are filled with do-it-yourself fixes — whitening rinses and trays and pastes of all sorts. Excessive use of these products can be bad for your teeth and gums. If you want a whiter smile, talk to the professionals at the Marconi Dental Group. You can get your pretty white smile and keep your gums healthy too, but make sure you do it the right way, at the dental office.
Our gums also recede as we get older. While we can’t push back the literal clock, we can make sure we are doing everything possible to keep our gums where they belong. Gum recession is something that will be checked on each and every dental exam, so it is very important to not assume your dental health is OK because everything looks OK.
Another common cause of gum recession is the use of tongue and lip piercings. Check out the gum line in the area of a piercing. You will easily notice that the gum in that section of the mouth has receded farther from the teeth than in other sections away from the piercing. Piercings can lead to sensitivity, decay and tooth loss as they expose the layers normally protected by the gums.
Treating Tooth Sensitivity
Sensitive teeth should not be ignored! The cause needs to be identified by your dentist. After the cause of your sensitivity is evaluated, your dentist may recommend a de-sensitizing toothpaste. These special formulas block the little canals in your dentin, typically after two weeks of consistent use. There are also prescription strength toothpastes you can try. Your dentist at the Marconi Dental Group may also apply fluoride treatments or sealing materials to lessen the sensitivity of your teeth. If your gum recession is severe, you may be a good candidate for placing a filling or bonding over the exposed area.
Something as simple as the direction you brush your teeth, the angle you use and the type of toothbrush and toothpaste you buy could be the solution to your sensitive teeth problems. Make an appointment with the Marconi Dental Group, and you could be inhaling cold air, drinking coffee and eating ice cream again with no problems! Our Carmichael dental office has a cure for tooth sensitivity!