If you experience sharp pain in your teeth when you eat or drink hot or cold foods, you may be experiencing dental hypersensitivity, also called dentin hypersensitivity. This condition can be difficult to live with. You may be wondering how dental hypersensitivity happens, and what you can do about it. Let’s explore.
What Is Dental Hypersensitivity?
Dental hypersensitivity is a commonly-used term for what is actually dentin hypersensitivity. Dentin or dentine is a major part of each tooth. It sits underneath the tough tooth enamel and fills most of the tooth. Dentin is filled with tiny tubules that connect to the innermost structures of the teeth, including the tooth pulp, tooth root, blood vessels, and nerves. Dentin hypersensitivity occurs when the dentin is exposed and contact with certain stimuli, such as cold foods, causes sharp pain.
The exact cause of dental or dentin hypersensitivity is not precisely known. It seems that dentin hypersensitivity occurs when fluid inside the dentin tubules reacts to a stimulus and triggers the nerves inside the dental pulp, which causes a painful sensation. The stimuli that can cause pain include extreme hot or cold foods, strong air currents, touch, acidic foods, or sugary foods.
How to Treat Dental Hypersensitivity
There are several different ways to treat dentin hypersensitivity. In general, dental hypersensitivity is treated by covering the exposed dentin, desensitizing the nerves, or by plugging the dentinal tubules.
Dental Hypersensitivity Treatment Products
Several toothpastes, mouthwashes, chewing gums, and other products are designed to reduce dental hypersensitivity or dentin hypersensitivity. Toothpastes like Sensodyne, use potassium nitrate to desensitize the nerves in the teeth. Other products use other compounds, such as strontium chloride, strontium acetate, arginine, calcium carbonate, hydroxyapatite, or calcium sodium phosphosilicate.
It’s not entirely clear why potassium nitrate and other compounds reduce dental hypersensitivity and desensitize the nerves. However, these treatments for dental hypersensitivity are safe to use and can help to reduce pain.
Professional Treatments for Dental Hypersensitivity
Over-the-counter products can help treat pain from dental hypersensitivity, but you may still experience some pain when eating cold or hot foods, or from other stimuli. Your dentist can suggest other treatments that can provide longer lasting results for dental hypersensitivity.
Flouride treatments are one method that can help treat dental hypersensitivity. Fluoride treatments help to remineralize teeth. During this process, the fluoride ions bond with calcium and phosphate ions to strengthen tooth enamel. If the dentin is exposed because the tooth enamel has been weakened, which often occurs in older age, fluoride treatments can help to reinforce the enamel and cover the dentin and tubules again.
How to Prevent Dental Hypersensitivity
As previously mentioned, dentin hypersensitivity occurs when the dentin becomes exposed. This can occur because the tooth enamel becomes weak, or it can occur when the gums pull away from the teeth. Tooth enamel doesn’t continue below the gum line, so when the gums pull away, the dentin becomes exposed. Maintaining the health of your tooth enamel and gums is key to preventing dental hypersensitivity from occurring in the first place.
Acidic foods and acid-producing bacteria eat away at tooth enamel over time. Tooth enamel is not a living structure, and can’t regenerate itself like other parts of your body. However, it can be restored with fluoride. That’s why water sources around the world have been fluoridated, and why toothpaste contains fluoride. Using fluoride toothpaste and brushing twice a day, every day, is one way to keep your tooth enamel healthy and strong. Watching your intake of acidic foods, especially sugary sodas or fruit juices, and drinking water between these beverages can also help.
Keeping your gums healthy is another important way to prevent dental hypersensitivity. As bacteria attack your gums, they will begin to pull away from your teeth, which will expose the dentin. Flossing or using a water flosser once a day will remove bacteria from your gums and help prevent gum disease.
If you’re experiencing dental hypersensitivity, talk to your dentist. Your dentist may have treatments available that can treat this condition, or they may recommend products that can help. If you live in the Las Vegas area, make an appointment with one of our dentists today.