Does this ice cream cone make you grimace with the stinging pain of tooth sensitivity? Do you have to order your water with no ice or shudder at the thought of brushing at the gumline?
This is a close up of the surface of a tooth root. The little dots are openings to the tubes at the surface that run toward the left leading to the nerve on the inside of the tooth.
When the surface of the tooth is abraded by a tooth brush or the surface temperature changes, the fluid in the tubes moves and causes the sensation of a sharp, quick pain in the nerve of the tooth. This is why we often feel tooth sensitivity when we bite into an ice cream cone, drink hot or ice tea, or brush the gumline of our teeth.
What Can Be Done?
The most conservative (least surgical or aggressive) treatments are to apply fluoride and/or potassium nitrate. Fluoride causes a solid to form in the tubes which essentially “plugs” the tubes and “insulates” the nerve. Fluoride can be applied daily in over-the-counter doses or in prescription daily doses or in a professionally applied varnish. The effect of fluoride usually lasts 3-6 months or more, but acid in the diet or from reflux can dissolve the fluoride in the tubes over time. Potassium nitrate is commonly found in “sensitive” toothpaste and is essentially a nerve desensitizer. Potassium nitrate can be found in some of the OTC and Rx fluoride toothpastes.
If these treatments don’t help, the root surface can be insulated and covered by a filling or a crown. But we rarely go to these extents and patients usually find relative relief from fluoride and potassium nitrate.
Stop The Pain Today!
Stronger sensitivity to cold or heat that lasts for more than 5 seconds or results in an ache after exposure can indicate a bigger problem such as irreversible damage to the nerve of the tooth and sometimes require a root canal. If you are having symptoms you’re concerned about, we can check it for you. Call our office for an appointment.
Yours in oral health,
Whitney Frank DDS