Tooth sensitivity can cause pain and discomfort, especially when it is triggered by hot and cold liquids, food, or tooth brushing. Vigorous or abrasive brushing can strip away tooth enamel and expose sensitive nerves.
Treatments include desensitizing toothpaste with compounds that help shield nerve endings from irritants, in-office fluoride gel to strengthen enamel, and crowns, inlays, or dental bonding to cover up sensitive trigger areas.
1. Salt Water Rinse
There are many products available to help improve oral hygiene, but none are as effective or affordable as a simple salt water rinse. This at-home routine helps prevent gingivitis, halitosis, bad breath, and soothes irritated gums or canker sores. It also promotes quicker healing for any mouth trauma or surgery and relieves a sore throat.
It works by temporarily increasing the pH balance in your mouth to create an alkaline environment that bacteria can’t thrive in. It has also been shown to reduce the growth of plaque, which is a leading cause of tooth decay.
To make a solution, boil eight ounces of water, remove from heat, add one teaspoon of salt, and stir to dissolve it completely. Rinse the mixture around your mouth, teeth, and gums for at least 30 seconds, letting it seep between the teeth, then spit it out. Repeat as needed. You can even add other ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide and honey, to increase the solution’s antibacterial, soothing, and healing properties.
2. Desensitizing Toothpaste
Tooth sensitivity can be caused by enamel erosion, gum disease, or even a cracked tooth or filling. While a sensitivity toothpaste may be able to help alleviate some of the discomfort, it’s important to visit a dentist for more advanced treatment options.
A sensitivity toothpaste contains ingredients that help desensitize the nerves in your mouth that respond to hot or cold liquids, food and drinks, air, or sugary foods. A common ingredient is potassium nitrate, which has been shown to help reduce pain from these stimuli by blocking the dentin tubules that send messages of sensation to the brain.
Another ingredient is stannous fluoride, which acts as a barrier and helps block the transmission of pain signals to the nerves. In addition to these ingredients, a sensitivity toothpaste should not contain the foaming agent sodium lauryl sulfate, which has been linked with oral health problems such as gum irritation and oral cancer. A recent NMA showed that calcium sodium phosphosilicate (CSP) and stannous fluoride in combination with hydroxyapatite or SnF2 were most efficient against DH, though further studies are needed.
3. Over-the-Counter Fluoride
Fluoride is an essential mineral that prevents and reverses tooth decay by stopping the bacterial overgrowth and helping to mineralize your teeth. It’s a natural element found in many foods, water and dental products. We recommend using toothpaste or mouth rinses that contain fluoride. Children under the age of 6 should not be using fluoride mouthwash due to the risk of ingesting it, and adults may require higher concentrations like 2,800 ppm or 5,000 ppm, which are only available by prescription.
While it is important to maintain good oral hygiene and use a toothpaste with a high level of fluoride, regular professional fluoride treatments are very effective at protecting against tooth decay and are easy to schedule during your routine cleanings. They are highly recommended if you live in an area without fluoridated drinking water, or if you have a high risk for tooth decay. Fluoride works by strengthening enamel and reversing early tooth decay, making teeth more resistant to acid attacks and preventing cavities from forming. Although large amounts of fluoride can be toxic, it is extremely difficult to reach dangerous levels from properly-fluoridated city water and over-the-counter toothpaste.
4. In-Office Fluoride Treatment
Fluoride is a mineral that prevents tooth decay by strengthening enamel and blocking exposed dentin tubules. It’s present in most toothpastes and mouthwashes, but professional fluoride treatments have a much higher concentration of the mineral and offer immediate results.
Dentists typically apply fluoride treatment as a gel, foam, or varnish during a routine teeth cleaning appointment. Once the dentist applies the solution, patients are instructed to not eat or drink for about 30 minutes so that the teeth absorb it completely.
Using fluoride can help prevent and stop tooth decay, especially in children and teenagers because their teeth are still growing and more susceptible to cavities. It can also reduce sensitivity, as the treatment strengthens the enamel and blocks exposed dentin. In-office fluoride treatment is recommended by dentists for everyone who wants to prevent tooth decay and increase their oral health. It’s particularly important for children and teenagers who are more prone to cavities, as well as people with dry mouth who are more at risk of tooth erosion. A professional fluoride treatment can help improve your smile for life.
5. Gum Graft
Gum tissue graft surgery is an outpatient procedure that works by removing gum tissue from the roof of your mouth and transplanting it to the area of significant gum recession. This helps to cover exposed tooth roots, reduces plaque accumulation caused by an uneven gum line, and can even your bite.
Dr. Newhart will create an entry point through the gums, usually where the receding root is exposed. He may use either donor tissue from a tissue bank or your own gums (called an autograft, allograft, or xenograft). A pedicle graft is similar, but rather than cutting the entire flap on the palate, Dr. Newhart cuts it partially so one edge remains attached, pulls the graft up or down to cover the exposed root, and stitches it in place.
After the gum graft heals, you’ll be able to brush and floss normally. However, you’ll need to avoid hard and cold foods until then to prevent the graft from being damaged. You’ll also need to rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash on a regular basis. With the right care, your gum graft will last for years to come!