Have you noticed that when you eat or drink hot or cold items, you may sometimes experience a sharp sensation? These bouts of tooth sensitivity can leave you hesitant to consume some of your favorite foods and beverages. You may also be left uncertain about the cause of the discomfort. Continue reading to learn about some of the possible contributors, how using a desensitizing toothpaste can help and the value of visiting a dentist for a checkup.
Understanding Tooth Sensitivity
Statistics show that 60% of Americans are dealing with some form of tooth sensitivity. From an anatomical standpoint, the outer layer of the tooth, called the enamel, is composed of a crystalized mineral called hydroxyapatite. The hardest substance in the human body, its job is to protect the sensitive inner parts of the tooth from the dynamic environment inside the mouth.
Lying beneath the enamel is the dentin, which is the first layer of sensitive tissue. It contains tubules that radiate out from the pulp, the only living portion of the tooth. When those tubules are disturbed, it can create a pain sensation similar to what is experienced when a nerve is activated.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
When portions of the dentin become exposed, the tooth can become sensitive to sweetness and temperature. Here are some of the common contributors to the bouts of discomfort:
- Excessive brushing – Aggressively brushing your teeth can wear down the enamel over time.
- Grinding – Teeth grinding (also referred to as bruxism) places unusual pressure on the teeth and can cause enamel thinning or even a severe crack.
- Receding gums – Healthy gums fit snuggly around teeth to protect them. However, if they recede, the sensitive dentin can become exposed.
- Hard impact – The pressure created from biting down on hard candies or gnawing on inedible objects, like fingernails or pencils, can lead to enamel wear.
How Using a Desensitizing Toothpaste Can Help
One of the active ingredients in desensitizing toothpastes is potassium nitrate. It helps to seal the tubules, preventing fluid from flowing there to cause sensitivity. Additionally, potassium nitrate has been proven to be the most effective desensitizing agent when receding gums leave an exposed root. For maximum effectiveness, around 5% of the toothpaste should contain potassium nitrate.
Why You Should Visit Your Dentist
While using a desensitizing toothpaste can help quiet your tooth sensitivity, the discomfort could be a warning sign of tooth decay. If that’s the case, the damage won’t stop on its own. To be on the safe side, pay your local dentist a visit so you can be examined. Therefore, if you’re in need of restorative care, you can receive it before you have a much bigger problem on your hands. The more proactive you are, the better off you’ll be!
About the Author
Dr. Aliana Henkin earned her dental degree from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine. Since graduating, she has remained an avid learner, taking several hours of continuing education courses annually. This allows Dr. Henkin to offer comprehensive and competent care to meet the varied needs of her patients. She practices at Skyline Dental, and she can be reached for more information through her website.