Sensitive Teeth:
Causes and Treatment

If tasting ice cream or sipping coffee is sometimes painful, or if brushing or flossing makes you wince occasionally, you may have a common problem: “sensitive teeth”. Some of the causes include tooth decay, a cracked tooth, worn tooth enamel, worn fillings and tooth roots that are exposed as a result of aggressive tooth brushing, gum recession and periodontal (gum) disease.

Sensitive teeth can be treated. Depending on the cause, your dentist may suggest you try desensitizing toothpaste, which contains compounds that help block sensation travelling from the tooth surface to the nerve. Desensitizing toothpaste usually requires several applications before sensitivity is reduced. When choosing toothpaste or any other dental care products, look for those that display the Canadian Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance.

If the desensitizing toothpaste does not ease your discomfort, your dentist may suggest in office treatments. A fluoride gel or special desensitizing agents may be applied to the sensitive areas of the affected teeth. If these measures do not correct the problem, your dentist may recommend other treatments, such as a filling, a crown, an inlay or bonding to correct a flaw or decay that is causing the sensitivity. The type of treatment will depend on the cause the sensitivity. If gum tissue has been lost from the root (gum recession), your dentist may recommend a surgical gum graft to cover the root, protect the tooth and reduce the sensitivity. In cases of severe and persistent hypersensitivity that cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend endodontic (root canal) treatment to eliminate the discomfort.

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