We all want a healthy, beautiful smile, but dental care goes beyond just helping teeth look good. At Dunn & Schreiber Orthodontics, we're proud to provide expert, high-quality orthodontic treatment to patients of all ages throughout the Montgomery, Millbrook, and Wetumpka, AL areas. We believe everyone deserves a smile they feel proud of, and our trusted orthodontists and their highly trained staff work with you to customize a comprehensive treatment plan that meets the needs of your lifestyle.
Aside from orthodontic treatment, there are many other aspects of dental care that we want to keep you aware of. One issue that is very common, for example, is tooth sensitivity.
Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?Tooth sensitivity is a surprisingly common problem, affecting more than a third of the US population at one point or another. Unlike normal tooth pain, which refers to the constant ache you might get from a cavity, tooth sensitivity usually occurs when teeth are exposed to certain stimuli like cold, heat, pressure, sweetness, or acidity.
The problem arises from the anatomy of the tooth. Beneath the hard out layer of a tooth (the enamel) is dentin, which makes up the majority of the tooth itself. Dentin contains nerves and tiny tubules that transmit messages down to the root of the tooth where the soft, fleshy dental pulp resides. If dentin is exposed directly to external stimuli without the protection of enamel, it can cause pain.
While enamel normally covers and protects dentin, it may be exposed for a number of reasons, such as:
- Enamel only covers the upper surface of the tooth, so it doesn't extend below the tooth roots. If the gum line recedes low enough to expose the tooth roots, the dentin there may be vulnerable to external stimuli.
- Acids from sodas, sports drinks, and certain foods can erode the surface of the enamel. The acids work to soften the outer layer of the enamel, and if you brush your teeth while the enamel is in this softened state it may wear down over time and expose dentin. To avoid this, always wait an hour or so after drinking anything acidic before brushing your teeth – or just avoid consuming sodas and sports drinks entirely.
- Tooth decay can also be a problem. Naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth can interact with the foods we eat to produce corrosive acids, which eat away at enamel. If the enamel wears down enough, it may expose the dentin, producing sensitivity.
- Sometimes just having dental work done can cause temporary tooth sensitivity. For instance, because dental fillings interact directly with dentin, they may cause sensitivity for a few days while the tooth adjusts.
How to Treat Sensitive TeethFor most patients, tooth sensitivity is a minor issue and can be dealt with at home. If you're experiencing minor tooth sensitivity, be careful about how you brush your teeth; try not to brush too aggressively, and don't brush the same area for too long. Make sure you're using a soft-bristled brush and proper technique, and always use fluoridated toothpaste, which builds the strength of your enamel. You may also want to consider using toothpaste that is specially formulated for sensitive teeth, although it may take 4 to 6 weeks to feel its effects.
In some cases, tooth sensitivity lasts long enough or gets intense enough to warrant professional treatment, in which case you will want to talk to your local dentist. Some professional treatments that may help alleviate your tooth sensitivity include:
- Concentrated fluoride varnishes
- Specially-formulated mouth rinses
- Bonding protective materials to the outside of the teeth