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Tooth Sensitivity: The Root of the Problem

Tooth sensitivity is common among many Americans. So common, in fact, that the American Dental Association estimates approximately 40 million people in the United States deal with mild to severe tooth sensitivity. You may have tooth sensitivity if you experience pain when eating hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods. While this is a common problem, it is not to be taken lightly.

Many factors contribute to tooth sensitivity, but some of the most common include cavities, older fillings, gum disease, worn tooth enamel, and exposed tooth roots. Regardless of the cause, if tooth sensitivity is an issue, it should be discussed with a dentist to prevent future problems and decay.

What are some symptoms of tooth sensitivity?
Some common symptoms of tooth sensitivity include pain and discomfort in the mouth that occurs when teeth are exposed to hot and cold foods. Other symptoms may include discomfort with the breathing-in of cold air, drinking ice cold beverages, or putting pressure on teeth.

What treatments are available?
One of the cheapest and equally effective treatments is simple desensitizing toothpaste. It contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. While this doesn’t get rid of the underlying problem, it helps keep symptoms at bay until further direction is received from the primary care physician or dentist.

Another treatment your dentist might recommend is fluoride. Applying fluoride to sensitive areas helps strengthen enamel and dull the pain. There is also prescription fluoride available that can have the same effect as rubbing fluoride directly on the sensitive areas.

Other treatments, such as a surgical gum graft, root canal, or bonding, may be available upon visiting with your dentist.

What happens if I let my sensitive teeth go untreated?
It depends on the cause of your sensitivity. If your sensitivity encompasses several teeth at the same time, you may be experiencing gum recession, which exposes the roots, and allows for bacteria and infection to enter the gums and wear off the enamel. If your sensitivity is due to cavities, visit your dentist immediately – preventative treatment will be less invasive and less expensive than fixing a lost tooth after the problem gets worse. Not treating a cavity can lead to infection and jaw pain, ultimately resulting in tooth loss.

How can I get rid of tooth sensitivity?
Proper oral hygiene, including brushing your teeth twice per day and flossing once per day, is the key to preventing tooth pain, discomfort, and sensitivity.

Visit with your dentist to discuss proper treatment depending upon your individual situation.

Dr. Chu

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