Many of you may have experienced tooth sensitivity associated with cold beverages or foods or even cold air. You might even be sensitive to the touch on some areas of your teeth. This may be due to gingival recession, a situation where the gum has receded away from the crown of the tooth exposing the root surface of your tooth. The root of your tooth does not have the enamel layer protecting its outer surface. Instead, the outermost layer of the root surface is called cementum, a thin softer layer that can be easily removed. Even overly aggressive tooth brushing or using a medium or hard bristled toothbrush can remove this outer cementum layer. When the root surface of your tooth is compromised in this way the uncomfortable result is called dentinal hypersensitivity.
Dentinal hypersensitivity is different than discomfort caused by other problems such as a cracked tooth, fractured restoration, or dental decay. To further explain this condition let’s first go over some facts about tooth anatomy. Underneath the cementum layer of the root lies the dentin layer. This layer contains tubules that create a pathway to the center of the tooth, called the pulp. This is where the nerves of your tooth are found. The tubules are not entirely open to the pulp but fluid movement within them can stimulate the nerve to cause sensitivity.
There are many products available to address the discomfort of dentinal hypersensitivity. Almost every brand of toothpaste makes a paste formulated for sensitive teeth. Sensodyne is a brand that was designed to help with sensitivity. Most of these toothpastes contain an ingredient called potassium nitrate that is thought to inhibit the nerve from sending a pain response. Toothpastes containing stannous fluoride or sodium fluoride can help by physically blocking the tubules. For more severe cases a prescription paste can be obtained at our office containing a more concentrated form of fluoride. A fluoride varnish used in the office also works by occluding the tubules and creating a barrier, which protects your teeth from sensitivity. Another product called MI Paste has amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP), which releases calcium and phosphate ions in the saliva to encourage remineralization of your teeth. It also occludes the dentinal tubules to prevent hypersensitivity.
These are some of the options that we can provide in our office. If you are experiencing this kind of tooth sensitivity let us know at your next dental appointment so we can find an option that will work for you.
Julie Murphy, RDH
<a href=" https://plus.google.com/115722924495592500552/posts?rel=author"> Dr. Amanda Delwiche, DDS </a>