Your Family Dentist Explains Tooth Sensitivity

Fall has finally arrived.  It’s an end to those hot, Texas summer days, and we can finally venture outside and enjoy those long missed outdoor activities in moderate upper to mid-90 degree temperatures.  Before we know it, that northern cold front will coast in and send us into a chilling upper 80 degrees.  All kidding aside, the reality in Texas is it will be warm one day and freezing sleet the next.  Of course, if you are sensitive to the fluctuating weather in Texas, that is outside my expertise.  However, if your teeth are experiencing sensitivity to changing temperatures, I am more than happy to provide some professional advice.

There are many variables that cause tooth sensitivity, but it is best to first explain the anatomy of teeth to understand why sensitivity occurs.  To begin, healthy teeth are made up of an outer shell of enamel that, though very hard, is also porous.  Underneath the enamel is even more porous dentin that ultimately surrounds the pulp of the tooth, which contains both blood vessels and nerves.  The root of the tooth does not have enamel, but is made up of a substance called cementum that covers dentin and pulp and is also more porous than enamel.

When dentin is exposed, stimulants can make their way through tubules in the dentin that reach the pulp activating nerve fibers and causing pain or sensitivity.  Causes of dentin exposure can include tooth decay (cavities), tooth fractures, worn fillings, worn enamel or cementum, and exposed tooth roots from gum disease or hard brushing.  It is also common to experience tooth sensitivity after dental work as a result of exposed dentin or pulp trauma.

Sensitive teeth can be treated depending on the cause.  Treatments can include desensitizing toothpastes, dental restorations, fluoride treatments, gum grafting, or in severe persistent cases, root canal therapy.  If you are experiencing sensitivity, it is best not to hesitate as worsening symptoms can result in more complex treatment.

Of course, no one is more sensitive to the needs of your teeth than your dentist and understands your teeth have “fillings”, too.  Give them a visit.  Happy smiling!

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