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By David E. Habecker DDS
March 08, 2017
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sensitive teeth  
DontPutOffGettingTreatmentforYourSensitiveTeeth

While out with friends one evening, you take a bite of ice cream. Suddenly, pain shoots through your teeth. It only lasts a second, but it's enough to ruin your good time.

This could be tooth sensitivity, a painful reaction to hot or cold foods. It often occurs when the enamel in prolonged contact with acid has eroded. Acid is a waste product of bacteria found in plaque, a thin film of food particles that builds up on tooth surfaces due to inadequate brushing and flossing. Enamel normally mutes temperature or pressure sensation to the underlying dentin layer and nerves. Loss of enamel exposes the dentin and nerves to the full brunt of these sensations.

Sensitivity can also happen if your gums have shrunk back (receded) and exposed dentin below the enamel. Although over-aggressive brushing can often cause it, gum recession also happens because of periodontal (gum) disease, a bacterial infection also arising from plaque.

The best way to avoid tooth sensitivity is to prevent enamel erosion or gum recession in the first place. Removing accumulated plaque through daily brushing and flossing is perhaps the most essential part of prevention, along with a nutritious diet low in sugar and regular dental cleanings and checkups.

It's also important to treat any dental disease that does occur despite your best hygiene efforts. Gum disease requires aggressive plaque removal, especially around the roots. While receded gum tissues often rebound after treatment, you may need gum grafting surgery to restore lost tissues if the gums have receded more deeply. For enamel erosion and any resulting decay you may need a filling, root canal treatment or a crown, depending on the depth and volume of structural damage.

While you're being treated you can also gain some relief from ongoing sensitivity by using a toothpaste with potassium nitrate or similar products designed to desensitize the dentin. Fluoride, a known enamel strengthener, has also been shown to reduce sensitivity. We can apply topical fluoride directly to tooth surfaces in the form of gels or varnishes.

Don't suffer through bouts of tooth sensitivity any more than you must. Visit us for a full exam and begin treatment to relieve you of the pain and stress.

If you would like more information on the causes and treatment of tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity.”

By David E. Habecker DDS
July 19, 2015
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sensitive teeth  
ThereareVariousWaystoTreatSensitivity-DependingonitsCause

You may be among the one in three Americans who suffer from the pain of tooth sensitivity. Before attempting treatment, though, we must first identify the cause.

Your teeth are made of layers of different organic tissue. The pulp at the center of the tooth contains nerves that transmit pain or pressure sensation to the brain. The pulp is encased by dentin, a layer of tissue composed of tiny tubules that conduct temperature and pressure changes from outside the tooth to the pulp nerves. The hard outer enamel shell shields the dentin from over-stimulation from these sensations.

There are, however, some instances where the dentin may become exposed and cause sensitivity in the tooth. This can occur when the gum tissue recedes and the root of the tooth is exposed to the oral environment. If the root loses its surface coating (referred to as cementum, a cement-like outer layer around the root surfaces) because of over-aggressive brushing (too hard for too long) or advanced periodontal (gum) disease, sensitivity is often the result.

Another instance is enamel erosion. Although made of the hardest substance in the human body, enamel has one major enemy — acid. A high oral acid level brought on by over-consuming acidic foods and beverages or as a symptom of gastric reflux disease dissolves (de-mineralizes) the enamel’s mineral content. Brushing just after eating actually contributes to de-mineralization because the enamel is in a softer state. It requires forty-five minutes to an hour for your saliva to neutralize acid and restore minerals to the enamel — you may actually be brushing away enamel with this practice.

Once we know the underlying cause, we can use an appropriate method to reduce sensitivity. One way is to reduce nerve sensitivity in the dentin’s tubules or block them altogether. There are several chemical products for both home and dental office application that can reduce sensitivity and encourage enamel re-mineralization (as can the fluoride added to toothpaste). We can also strengthen enamel and provide a mechanical barrier to acid through concentrated fluoride in a varnish applied to tooth and root surfaces. And, life-like restorations like crowns or veneers not only improve the appearance of your teeth, they can also provide coverage for exposed dentin.

If you are experiencing painful sensitivity, make an appointment to visit us. Once we know the source, we can treat the problem and reduce your discomfort.

If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity and how to treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity.”

By David E. Habecker DDS
May 22, 2014
Category: Oral Health
TaketheScreamOutofIceCream

“We all scream for ice cream,” the saying goes. But what if eating ice cream — or any very cold or hot food — literally makes you want to scream because your teeth hurt so much?

What causes sensitivity in teeth?

Understanding the anatomy of a tooth helps explain what happens when a tooth becomes sensitive to heat and cold. A tooth is composed of three types of tissue: a hard outer shell of enamel, the body of the tooth composed of the dentin, and an interior tissue of the pulp.

Enamel: The enamel forms the outside of the crown, the part of the tooth you normally see. Made of densely packed crystals of calcium, it is resistant to wear. It is not living tissue, and does not contain nerves, but it is capable of transmitting temperature like hot and cold.

Dentin: Inside the tooth's crown and root is a living tissue called dentin, which is a porous structure similar to bone. It is composed of microscopic tubules containing living cells, which are encased in a hard substance made of calcium crystals.

Pulp: The living dentin transmits sensation through to the pulp, which is in the center of the tooth and contains the tooth's blood vessels and nerves.

A tooth's enamel normally protects the dentin from exposure to extremes of temperature and pressure. If you wear away the enamel and expose the dentin, it will pass sensation through to the nerves in the pulp more directly. The result can range from a twinge to an excruciating pain.

Sensitivity can be caused by:

  • Overzealous tooth brushing resulting in enamel wear and consequently dentin exposure and wear.
  • Enamel and dentin erosion by acids in the foods and beverages you eat and drink.
  • Tooth decay — the most common cause of sensitivity. Decay destroys enamel and dentin inflaming and infecting the living tissues of the pulp, which become increasingly painful.

What can you do to make your teeth less sensitive?

  • Use a soft bristle tooth brush, and brush the affected teeth gently to remove all bacterial plaque. We can advise you on safe and effective brushing techniques.
  • Use toothpaste that contains fluoride. Fluoride strengthens tooth surfaces and makes them more resistant to sensitivity and decay.
  • Ask us about professionally applied fluoride varnishes or filling materials that can cover and replace sensitive or lost tooth structure.

Of course, if the problem is caused by tooth decay, make an appointment with us to remove the decay and place a filling in the sensitive teeth.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about sensitive teeth. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”

By David E. Habecker DDS
November 06, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: sensitive teeth  
WhatsattheRootofToothSensitivity

In a healthy tooth, a coating of enamel protects the crown — the part above the gum line — and a layer of cementum protects the tooth root below the gum line. Enamel and cementum are inert (nonliving) substances that do not respond to stimuli such as heat or cold; however, dentin, the living tissue below them, does. Dentin contains numerous microscopic tubules that readily transmit stimuli toward the nerve-filled center of the tooth (pulp tissue). Loss of protective enamel or cementum leaves dentin exposed to all sorts of stimuli in the oral environment, which can trigger “dentinal hypersensitivity” — anything from a mild twinge to shooting pain.

Fortunately, there are many options for treating hypersensitivity. The key to selecting the most appropriate one(s) is determining the cause(s). Some of the more common reasons for sensitivity due to dentin exposure include:

  • Enamel erosion caused by an “acid attack” related to external (extrinsic) causes — i.e., consumption of acidic beverages/food — or internal causes — i.e., regurgitation of stomach acids due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia
  • Using an overly abrasive brush or toothpaste, brushing incorrectly or too frequently, or brushing too soon after an “acid attack” — all of which can result in a loss of enamel
  • Tooth decay (dental caries or cavities)
  • Tooth fracture or chipping: tooth grinding (bruxism) is a common cause
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum recession, due to age or improper tooth brushing, that exposes the tooth root
  • Gum disease, which can result in gum recession

Sensitivity can also occur following a procedure like treating a cavity. Normally it subsides within a couple of weeks or so but if it continues there may be another underlying cause.

Whatever the source(s) of your discomfort, our office can get to the bottom of it and recommend an effective course of treatment that meets your personal needs!

If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”

By David E. Habecker DDS
December 14, 2012
Category: Oral Health
WaysYouCanMinimizeToothSensitivity

If you have ever suffered from tooth sensitivity, you know all too well how real the pain can be — anything from a slight twinge to pain that can be downright excruciating. Sensitivity may be experienced several times throughout the day or just every once in a while. However, as we say, a little knowledge can go a long way. And we can provide you with the know-how and steps to help minimize your tooth sensitivity.

One of the first steps we will take is to review your brushing habits, as an improper brushing technique can not only cause tooth sensitivity, but it also can make the sensitivity worse once it is present. We will teach you how to remove dental plaque safely without damaging your delicate gum tissues, which can cause gum recession leaving the dentin exposed. Another step we may take is to provide you with a special toothpaste containing fluoride or one specifically targeted to sensitive teeth. The fluoride increases the strength of tooth surfaces and thus makes teeth more resistant to acid attack and sensitive to sweets. Or if the sensitivity is severe and/or constant, we may need to apply a barrier to cover the sensitive areas. These barriers may range from concentrated fluoride varnishes to bonded filling materials to cover the sensitive areas. If the pain is severe and constant, it may be possible that the pulpal tissue containing the nerves in your tooth are inflamed and you may need a root canal treatment to relieve your pain and save the tooth.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity or have questions about this condition, please contact us to schedule an appointment. Or you can learn more about this topic by reading the article “Sensitive Teeth.”