By Dr. Michael Herndon, DDS, AF

Being the season of the holidays and lots of sweets to eat, sensitive teeth can limit the fun! Teeth get sensitive for a number of reasons such as receding gums, cavities, fractures, and leaking restorations (fillings or crowns). For example, when gums recede, and this can happen at almost age for a number of reasons, the root of the tooth gets exposed. Once this happens it is fairly easy to erode through thin layer of cementum that covers the root and expose the dentin of the root.

Dentin is a live tooth structure that has small tubes in it that go from the inside to the outside. These little tubules cause the tooth to react to stimuli such as sugar and quick temperature changes. This of course makes the teeth sensitive!

One of the tricks to help theses areas is to use a desensitizing toothpaste that your dentist can recommend. These toothpastes work by providing a precipitate of particles that occlude, or stop up the tubules on the outside of the root. When this happens the sensitivity is reduced. A dentist can also plug these with various materials applied at a dental appointment. A toothpaste with less abrasives will help reduce erosion.

It is also possible to correct receding gums surgically with a root coverage graft. Often this is a better approach than having a filling and should at least be considered as a possible treatment.

A cracked tooth can also be sensitive to cold. This cold sensitivity can linger (not so good) or go away quickly (much better). Cracked teeth are not usually sensitive to sugars unless there is also a cavity present. The treatment of a cracked tooth is usually to have a crown placed to stop the crack from getting worse, but that is a whole story on it’s own! Leaking restorations and cavities are issues that your dentist can diagnose.

I hope this very short story on sensitivity is helpful. If you have sensitive teeth, visit your dentist and see what can be done.