Many people experience sensitive teeth every time they eat or drink something hot or cold. When they feel sensitivity, most fear it may be the result of a problem, like a cavity or a cracked tooth, but often times it can be natural and more innocuous.

It helps to know how tooth sensitivity occurs. The teeth are made of multiple different layers, with enamel as the hard outer coating of the tooth. If enamel is intact, sensitivity generally does not originate in the outer coating. On the root surface of the tooth, enamel is replaced by a layer called cementum. If gum recession occurs, this area can be exposed to the oral cavity. The cementum has microscopic tubules in them that contain fluid. When hot, cold, sweet or some other form of stimulation makes contact with this area, it can cause the fluid inside the tooth to move around which can irritate the nerve in the center of the tooth, causing pain. Even though it can be very uncomfortable, no damage is done to the tooth.

In order to reduce tooth sensitivity, the best option is to clog up these tubules so that they cannot transmit their irritating signal to the nerve.

One way to do this is by using desensitizing products such as Sensodyne toothpaste, which works well for some people, but not for others. Another product that I find works better is called MI paste. This is a paste that contains primarily calcium and phosphate of which your teeth are made. The paste is applied around the teeth and allowed to soak in. The calcium and phosphates in the paste clog up the tubules in the teeth, which in many cases greatly reduces tooth sensitivity. Any other natural substance with high calcium and phosphates can generally improve sensitivity as well. Oil of clove is another natural substance that is effective in treating sensitive teeth. It is so useful, that it is even an ingredient in professional dental sedative materials.

To further limit problems with sensitivity, people should also avoid things than can make them more sensitive, such as foods and drinks that are acidic. Soda or citrus fruits can actually open up the tubules in teeth, leading to more sensitivity. Care must also be taken when people are using whitening or bleaching tooth pastes and gels because these have the same effect.

In the end, fortunately, a lot of cases of sensitive teeth are natural and do not have a more serious cause. Taking some simple steps can help reduce or limit this pain so that we are not limited in the type of foods or drinks we are able to enjoy.

Dr. Nick is with Palm Desert Smiles and can be reached at (760) 568.3602.

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