Ah, Summer. The season of iced coffee, ice cream and iced- anything that will cool you off from this heat! But, for those of us who suffer from tooth sensitivity, these methods to beat the heat can also be the culprit for some oral discomfort.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
To understand tooth sensitivity, we must first understand a little bit about tooth anatomy. Each tooth has three layers- the hard, white outer layer is called the enamel. The yellow-ish, softer layer below that is called the dentin. And in the center of each tooth is the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Over time, if the enamel is worn away it can expose the dentin to the oral environment. The dentin has tiny channels which connect to the pulp of the tooth. So, if you take a sip of cold water and it washes over the exposed dentin, it can send that wave of energy to the pulp and cause a zing of pain.
How does the enamel wear away? Most often it’s from overzealous tooth brushing which can cause recession of the gums, leading to dentin exposure on the roots of the teeth. Dentin can also become exposed by tooth grinding, cavities, broken down restorations, some treatments for periodontal disease or erosion from acidic foods or drinks.
Treating Sensitive Teeth
And Now that we understand HOW it happens, what are some ways we can treat these issues? The first and most conservative step is to try a desensitizing toothpaste, such as Sensodyne, which contains potassium nitrate or calcium phosphate. The way these dentifrices work is by blocking the channels in the dentin that connect to the pulp. Pro tip: if you have sensitivity localized to one specific area, brush the toothpaste onto that particular area but DON’T rinse it off. The longer it sits, the more effective it is. Plus, it has an additive effect over time. If the desensitizing toothpaste isn’t doing the trick, let your dentist know. Often, we can do a small, non-invasive filling that helps to cover the exposed area. Plus, we can rule out any issues such as cavities and treat them as needed.
If sensitive teeth is an issue for you, let us know so you can get back to enjoying your cool summer time treats! And as always, we’re happy to answer any questions you might have. Leave a comment below or give the office a call at 212.246.8700.