Do you avoid ice in your drinks? Are you fearful of having a certain area cleaned by the hygienist? Teeth that are sensitive to temperature, touch, or even air are one of the most common complaints dentists hear.
There are many reasons for sensitive teeth, including cavities and cracked teeth. Fortunately, most sensitivities are a result of a less serious cause.
Underneath the strong outer layer of a tooth is the dentin layer, which is less dense. Dentin has microscopic canals leading to the pulp of the tooth. When these miniature tubes lose their protective layer, they allow temperatures, sweets, touch, or drying to transmit a stimulus to the nerve fibers located in the pulp. These nerve fibers signal the pain of a hypersensitive tooth. Fortunately, the painful stimulus does not cause permanent damage to the nerve of the tooth, but it can be extremely unpleasant. Most sensitivities occur near the gumline as a result of toothbrush abrasion, acidic erosions, or compressing and flexing forces of clenching. There are over-the-counter desensitizing toothpastes available that help block the canals from transmitting sensations to the nerves. These toothpastes are often the first step to managing the problem; but if they do not provide adequate relief, let your dentist know. There are several other professional approaches available.
As with most things in dentistry, accurate diagnosis is the key to relieving sensitive teeth; or more importantly, to separate hypersensitive teeth from more serious conditions such as decayed or cracked teeth that get worse with delay.