Dental Hypersensitivity is a condition that affects almost every adult at some point in their life says Dr. Kalantari and Dr. Arcila of Smiles on Bristol Dentistry in Santa Ana, Ca. Have you ever bit into a popsicle and felt a sharp zap of pain? If so you probably have dental hypersensitivity.
Teeth are most often sensitive to cold but they can also be sensitive to heat, touch, and even to certain chemicals such as sugar. Sensitivity is caused when the dentin of a tooth is exposed. Dentin is usually protected by enamel, cementum or the gums. It is made up of tiny tubes that connect to the pulp of the tooth. The tubules can either be open or closed. When closed there is no sensitivity, however when they are open they allow stimuli to agitate nerves inside the tooth causing the pain.
Acid erosion and gum loss are the most common reasons for tooth sensitivity. Abrasion to the teeth such as overly vigorous flossing or brushing can also expose the dentin. Erosion removes the tooth’s protective layers of enamel and cementum. When the gums recede they expose the less protected dentin. Bleaching the teeth excessively can also cause tooth sensitivity. Red Heads are at a particular risk for dental hypersensitivity. They can have a particular gene that makes them less responsive to anesthesia. They may also have lower pain tolerances due to this gene which means they need greater amounts of anesthesia and pain reducers. Red heads who experience pain during procedures should consult with their dentist to see if greater pain reduction treatments need to be considered. Dr. Kalantari and Dr. Arcila are more than happy to work with patients to make sure they are comfortable and pain free at every visit.
Saliva naturally helps to reduce dental sensitivity. It is full of phosphorus and calcium that form a protective layer around the teeth blocking stimuli. The minerals also help to remineralize enamel so with enough time dentin is protected with a renewed layer of enamel. Unfortunately many conditions contribute to dry mouth and a lack of beneficial saliva. These can include dehydration, alcohol or drug use, certain prescription medications, and some illnesses. Also different people naturally produce different amounts of saliva. People also need to be consuming enough phosphorus and calcium in their diet to make sure the saliva has enough vitamins to remineralize the teeth. A list of foods that contain the highest amounts of phosphorus are seeds (pumpkin and squash), cheeses, fish like salmon or carp, shellfish, nuts, pork, beef, and dairy. Foods containing the highest amount of calcium include dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt), sardines, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale), white beans, salmon, figs, and soybeans. While it is best to get your nutrients from healthy foods, supplements can be taken to enhance the mineral content in your body.
In the past many dentists would simply recommend a sensitivity toothpaste and send patients on their way. This treatment is only effective for some patients, while others need more to treat their pain. Dental hypersensitivity used to be considered a minor issue by dentists because it does not pose a general health threat to patients like caries or gum disease do. However, it is a chronic condition that can seriously affect a patient’s quality of life. There are a number of new products specially designed to treat hypersensitivity using a variety of chemicals. Patients should speak with their dentists about what options are right for them.
Dentists can apply fluoride and other chemical varnishes to the area of exposed dentin to protect the areas from contact and to promote remineralization of the enamel. With proper remineralization this treatment can be a long lasting option for patients.
The FDA just recently cleared the first silver diamine fluoride for use in the United States. The product is called Advantage Arrest Silver Diamine Fluoride 38% and is produced by Elevate Oral Care LLC and Advantage Silver Dental Arrest LLC. Advantage Arrest underwent 8 years of testing to prove its safety and efficacy. When applied to cavities, Silver Diamine Fluoride has greater abilities to stop formed cavities and prevent further cavities from developing. It also hardens the enamel around the dentin of the teeth to reduce sensitivity. Advantage Arrest is fairly pricey, but consult with your dentist about getting Silver Diamine Fluoride applications.
There are also a number of at home treatments patients can now use to protect themselves from the pain of hypersensitivity. Colgate has recently released their Sensitivity Relief Pen. Patients brush the pen over areas of tooth sensitivity and the pen releases small amounts of a glycerin-based gel containing a ProArgin substance. ProArgin is made up of arginine, bicarbonate, and calcium carbonate which form together to create a barrier around the tooth effectively blocking open dentin tubes from stimuli.
Crest, too, has come out with a new product to treat sensitivity. Similar to their white strips technology, they have created mouth strips that adhere to both the gums and teeth. Users apply the strip directly over areas of sensitivity, half on the tooth, half on the gums. The strips release oxalate crystals that bind around the tooth during the 10 minute application. The crystals effectively block stimuli from reaching dentin tubes. Patients can use multiple strips to cover multiple areas but should only use one strip per area per day. Daily application will increase sensitivity protection. One application can protect teeth against sensitivity for up to one month.
Another product is Enamelon Preventive Treatment Gel. This gel offers impressive mouth protection with lower levels of fluoride for people concerned about having too much fluoride exposure. Compared to most commercial toothpastes containing 5000 ppm of fluoride, Enamelon only has 970 ppm. According to an in-vitro study by Therametric Technologies, Enamelon’s gel reduced tooth solubility by almost 57%, whereas normal fluoride toothpastes only reduced it by around 18%. This means when a tooth is exposed to acids from bacteria, foods, and drinks, the enamel will resist acidity three times more than a regular fluoride toothpaste. It also helps with sensitivity by creating a barrier of fluoride, calcium, and phosphate ions around the teeth. Enamelon also has the herb Splianthes, which helps to promote saliva production after brushing.
One of the more unique and tasty options to help with dental sensitivity is BasicBites® Soft Chews from Ortek Therapeutics, Inc. and Stony Brook University School of Dental Medicine. These chocolate flavored chews are eaten twice a day and contain arginine bicarbonate, calcium carbonate. The arginine helps keep the mouth in the healthy pH range necessary to both prevent tooth decay and allow of tooth remineralization. Even when a patient consumes sugar, the BasicBites Soft Chews are shown to keep the oral pH in the healthy range between 6.5 and 7.5 for hours. Acidic conditions are what cause erosion, loss of enamel, and tooth decay which all contribute to sensitivity. By preventing this acidic drop in pH, the soft chews prevent that enamel loss. Teeth also only remineralize their enamel naturally when the pH of the mouth is at the healthy level. By keeping the mouth at this level with the Soft Chews, the teeth have much more time to remineralize teeth throughout the day resulting in healthier teeth. Enamel restoration allows creates protection around the dentin to reduce sensitivity. The Soft Chews contain calcium to further assist the remineralization process.
Don’t live with painful dental sensitivity. Everyday new innovations are introduced to the market to help protect patients from the suffering cause by hypersensitivity. At Smiles on Bristol Dental in Santa Ana, CA, we are committed to making sure you have the products and treatments to live a healthy and pain-free life!