Tooth sensitivity can be treated and will usually go away, depending on the cause.
Sometimes, teeth may be especially sensitive after certain dental procedures, such as fillings or root canal therapy (RCT), in which case the sensitivity will usually go away on its own. In other cases, tooth sensitivity may need to be treated by a dentist, and the sooner the better.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
The crown of a tooth (part of the tooth above the gumline) is covered by enamel, whereas the part below the gum line (called the root) has a protective covering called the cementum. Both enamel and cementum cover and protect the less dense part of the tooth called dentin. Dentin contains several tiny channels that lead to various nerves present in the central part of the tooth, called the pulp.
When enamel or cementum is damaged, the nerves within the tooth get exposed, leading to increased sensitivity and discomfort. Gum recession may also expose the nerves and cause tooth sensitivity.
5 ways to treat tooth sensitivity
- Desensitizing toothpaste: Toothpaste for sensitive teeth contains ingredients that reduce or block sensation from the surface of the tooth to the underlying nerve, providing relief from sensitivity. When buying this type of toothpaste, make sure it has the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval.
- Fluoride gel: Your dentist may prescribe fluoride gel if desensitizing toothpaste does not provide relief. Fluoride application helps strengthen the tooth enamel which can relieve sensitivity.
- Filling or bonding: These dental procedures help provide relief from sensitivity caused by dental problems, such as tooth decay. The procedure is done at a dentist’s office under local anesthesia.
- Surgical gum graft (gingival grafting): This procedure may be needed if there is gum recession (loss of gum tissue exposing nerve roots). The procedure helps cover the exposed nerve root and provides relief from tooth sensitivity.
- Root canal treatment (RCT): RCT is the most definitive procedure to treat tooth sensitivity and may be done in cases where the sensitivity is severe and not relieved by other treatment options. It involves the removal of the inflamed or infected pulp from the tooth. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned, disinfected, filled, and sealed.
How can you prevent tooth sensitivity?
You can prevent tooth sensitivity by practicing good oral hygiene along with healthy eating habits:
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste using a brush with soft to medium bristles and a small head.
- Avoid brushing vigorously or using a hard-bristled toothbrush.
- For children up to three years old, use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of at least 1000 parts per million (ppm). For adults and children older than three years, use a toothpaste with a fluoride level of 1350 ppm to 1500 ppm.
- Use dental floss or an interdental cleaner at least once a day.
- Limit the intake of acidic food and drinks, including carbonated beverages.
- Use a straw when drinking anything sugary or acidic to minimize contact with your teeth and avoid holding the drink in your mouth or swishing it around.
- Snack on fruits and vegetables rather than sugary and processed foods.
- Chew sugar-free gum after a meal.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Go for regular dental checkups.
- Ask your dentist about using a mouthguard at night if you grind your teeth.
- Do not snack or drink sugary or acidic drinks after brushing your teeth at night.
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Cleveland Clinic. Teeth Sensitivity. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/symptoms/10954-teeth-sensitivity
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