If there is a progressive breakdown or a deterioration of a condition there are typically signs or symptoms. Sensitive teeth is a symptom that indicates there has been some changes that the teeth are not happy with. Sensitivity usually is the result of exposure of surfaces of the teeth that would not typically be exposed in a healthy state. These changes to teeth can be:
• Due to wear and the resulting exposure of the next layer of the tooth beyond the enamel, which is dentin.
• Due to recession of the gums that can be accelerated by unfavorable forces on teeth
• Due to cracks in teeth that are caused by forces or trauma that exceeds what the teeth can handle or restorations can withstand.
• Due to decay that has invaded the deeper layers of the tooth
Usually the sensitivity can be elicited by thermal changes, such as cold beverages, or even biting pressure when chewing a bolus of food that offers resistance such as a bagel or a nut. In essence it’s a cry for help that lets us know that something is wrong.
The solution is often 2 fold. First your dentist will identify the location and cause of the sensitivity. Any solution without management of why it happened in the first place will only insure that the sensitivity will return and probably get worse. Second, depending on the damage that has resulted in the sensitivity, there may be a variety of solutions.
A common source of sensitivity is recession of the gums around the teeth and the exposure of the root surfaces and/or dentin. Solutions may include:
• The use of desensitizing or Rx Fl- tooth pastes to help protect the areas causing the sensitivity
• The application of desensitizing solutions applied by the dentist or dental hygienist
• The use of a dental laser to alter the surfaces of the teeth to reduce sensitivity
• The restoration of the teeth to resurface areas of exposed dentin or to eliminate decay.
Key is to recognize that sensitivity is an early warning signs that all in not well. It certainly makes the best sense to visit your dentist to have the cause to the sensitivity identified so that they can be managed before it becomes a crisis. There are not many problems in life that even stay the same….usually things will get worse. Proactive prevention is always more cost effective and easier.
This is Dr. Scott Finlay, senior faculty for the Dawson Academy with another Dawson Hint for helping to maintain the health of your smile.