Tooth Sensitivity: Exposed Roots
Tooth sensitivity is something a lot of people experience. It can feel like a toothache or dull aching. You might notice it when you drink something cold or indulge in a little ice cream. Sometimes, you can feel pain while brushing or when cold air hits your teeth.
Many patients assume these symptoms indicate they need a root canal. While that can happen, the solution is usually much simpler. Patients are relieved when they find out the problem is an exposed root. All they may need is a desensitizing toothpaste.
Be good to your gums. It can prevent tooth sensitivity.
Getting older, teeth grinding, orthodontia work, gum disease and brushing your teeth too hard can all cause your gums to pull back. When the gum retracts, it exposes the root of the tooth.
It’s important to make sure you address the reason why you have an exposed root. You may need to wear a biteguard at night. If you’re brushing too hard, switch to a soft-bristled brush. Oral B also makes a toothbrush that detects the amount of pressure you’re using. It will let you know if you’re brushing too hard.
If gum disease is the problem, treatment will depend on how severe it is. You can prevent gum disease by flossing, brushing and seeing your dentist regularly.
Make an appointment to diagnose tooth sensitivity.
The first thing you should do if you have tooth sensitivity is make an appointment with your dentist. I always tell my patients it’s important to have an exam and X-ray. You need an accurate diagnosis. You could have a cavity that needs to be fixed. We need to make sure the nerve of the tooth is healthy as well. During an exam, it’s easy to see if the gum is thin and retracted.
Certain toothpastes can improve tooth sensitivity.
If the problem isn’t a cavity or an infected nerve, many patients can try Sensodyne® toothpaste or a prescription product we carry in our office. Patients can buy Sensodyne® over the counter. It contains the ingredient potassium nitrate. To understand how it works, imagine the surface of your tooth’s root with holes, like a piece of Swiss cheese. Air can travel through the holes to irritate your exposed root. Potassium nitrate in Sensodyne® helps plug up those holes. Another way to fill them is to use a prescription product called Clinpro™ 5000. It’s a toothpaste with a higher concentration of fluoride than other types. It can also improve tooth sensitivity.
Fillings and gum grafts can eliminate pain.
In some cases, the best way to address tooth sensitivity is by placing a white filling over the area. If you need to replace missing gum tissue, we can refer to you to a periodontist for what’s called a gingival graft.
Ignoring tooth sensitivity can lead to root canal.
Whatever you do, do not ignore a toothache or tooth sensitivity. An aggravated tooth that remains inflamed can lead to a root canal. If you keep up with your regular dental appointments, we can detect problems early – sometimes before symptoms begin.