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Dental Sensitivity

dentalsensitivityWhen you have sensitive teeth, certain activities, such as brushing, flossing, eating and drinking, can cause sharp, temporary pain in your teeth. Sensitive teeth are typically the result of worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots. Sometimes, however, tooth discomfort is caused by other factors, such as a cavity, a cracked or chipped tooth, a recently placed filling or a side effect of other dental procedures, such as bleaching.

We will identify any underlying causes of sensitivity and might recommend one or more of the following:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste. After several applications, desensitizing toothpaste can sometimes help block pain associated with sensitive teeth.
  • Fluoride. Your dentist might apply fluoride to the sensitive areas of your teeth to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain. He or she might also suggest the use of prescription fluoride at home.
  • Desensitizing or bonding. Occasionally, exposed root surfaces can be treated by applying bonding resin or a desensitizing chemical  to the sensitive root surfaces.
  • Surgical gum graft. If your tooth root has lost gum tissue, a small amount of gum tissue can be taken from elsewhere in your mouth and attached to the affected site. This can protect exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal. If your sensitive teeth cause severe pain and other treatments aren’t effective, you might need a root canal — a procedure used to treat problems of the tooth pulp (nerve).

To prevent sensitive teeth from recurring, you can brush your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Floss daily and avoid vigorous or harsh scrubbing, highly abrasive toothpaste, and excessive brushing and flossing. If you grind your teeth, ask your dentist about a mouth guard. Tooth grinding can fracture teeth and cause sensitivity.

You might also consider limiting acidic foods and drinks, such as carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, wine and yogurt — all of which can remove small amounts of tooth enamel over time. When you drink acidic liquids, use a straw to limit contact with your teeth. After eating or drinking an acidic substance, drink milk or water to balance the acid levels in your mouth.

It also helps to avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating or drinking acidic substances, since acid softens enamel and makes it more vulnerable to erosion during brushing.


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