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Kicking back with an ice cold drink is relaxing, but if you’re wincing with pain during each sip it may be a sign of tooth sensitivity.  

To better understand why teeth become sensitive, you’ll first need to understand the basic anatomy of a tooth.  The hard outer layer of your teeth above the gum line is called the enamel. Underneath the gums is also a hard outer layer called the cementum.  These hard exterior layers protect an inner layer of the tooth called the dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum, and has tiny holes known as tubules.  When dentin is exposed, you are more likely to experience tooth sensitivity.

How does dentin become exposed?  

The most likely causes are tooth decay, cracked teeth, worn tooth enamel, fillings, periodontal disease and tooth roots not covered by tissue.

Exposed dentin means that both the dentin and its tubules are exposed to external stimuli – basically everything that you put in your mouth.  So if you eat or drink something very cold, it moves through the exposed tubules into the innermost layer of the tooth called the pulp, creating fluid movement and stimulating nerves.   Likewise, eating or drinking something very hot can create the some effect.

What can be done to help sensitivity?  

The first step in helping sensitivity is prevention.  Good oral hygiene will aid in preventing sensitivity by reducing the development of tooth decay and periodontal disease.   Less aggressive brushing will also reduce the risk of damage to one’s tooth enamel and gums. There are also several toothpastes on the market which aid in the reduction of cold and heat sensitivity by providing teeth with the nutrients essential to strengthening the enamel.  MI Paste is one such product that Smiles Unlimited Dentistry, P.C., makes available to its patients. And of course, regular exams and cleanings may also reveal problems that may trigger sensitivity before it even starts! For more oral health tips, check out our blog on the subject.

Continual sensitivity may be a symptom of a bigger problem.  If sensitivity persists, Smiles Unlimited Dentistry, P.C. is here to help diagnose and fix your problem.