Nothing Is Worse Than Sensitive Teeth. And The Most Common Problem Is Teeth Sensitive To Cold.
As you are sitting in your favorite restaurant having an intimate conversation, you take a sip of iced cola and a gong goes off in your head above your right eye. Your eyebrows slam together, your left eye closes half-way, your lips make an “o” all as you experience an electric tooth zing. Comical to watch, from the other side of the table, your expression was recognized immediately. You just displayed the universal sign of sensitive teeth.
With details of your previous conversation long forgotten, your train of thought completely derailed, conversation at a stand-still, your thoughts turn exclusively to tooth pain. Darn it. It’s happened again. Making headway in an intimate moment and BAM. Now what were we talking about. The interruptions are really getting tiresome.
There are countless things that can make your life miserable, but with sensitive teeth, you have lots of company. The list of what causes sensitive teeth is so large I’m going to have to limit this article to one of the most common causes and it’s naked, exposed tooth root.
If you are between 20 to 40 years of age this article is for you. If you are an outlier, it might still also benefit you, so pay close attention.
Why Do So Many Things Make My Teeth Hurt?
You’ve Got A Lot Of Nerve
Teeth are built of several layers, nerve, dentin and enamel. Nerves start out very large as a tooth develops and tend to shrink in size as the dentin layer thickens from the inside. This makes the canal that contains the nerve smaller as you age. This increase in dentin thickness gradually reduces your sensitivity to cold but takes years to do it.
Younger teeth=more sensitive teeth.
Enamel Protects The Crown Of The Tooth
Enamel covers about a third of your whole tooth, the crown, the part of the tooth that’s visible when you smile or open your mouth wide. Enamel is the tooth’s armor, thickest on the biting surface of your teeth and tapering or thinning out toward your gums and disappearing completely about a millimeter (the thickness of a dime) under your gum edge (or gumline).
Beyond that point on your tooth the dentin nerve protection layer has no enamel coating, but it’s OK since that part is under your gums. This is how things start out when you are in your teens.
Gums can be pushed down over time gradually exposing some of the dentin nerve protecting layer. This exposes the root of your tooth to the rest of your world. Naked, exposed roots are sensitive because they have tiny holes.
I’ve Got Holes In My Teeth?
The dentin layer comprises the bulk of the tooth and is a “somewhat good” protector of your nerve. Good, but not perfect. This protective layer, has holes in it, literally, not just a few, but millions of them.
That’s great, you are thinking, I’ve got a protective layer for the nerves in my teeth but it’s got holes in it. That stinks. Yeah, not a perfect solution but it’s what you’ve got to work with.
What’s The Good News You Ask?
Well, the good news is that the holes are usually unexposed, covered with hard enamel or covered by your warm gums.
In your early teens, much of each of your teeth are covered with your gums. Your “gummy” smile changes as you mature as your teeth continue erupting. Each tooth becoming more visible, uncovering the enamel protected crown. More good news is that your smile gradually begins to look better and better.
The Downside Of Tooth Eruption
As your teeth push their way through your gums there is less and less warm gum protection for your teeth. The enamel layer, that thins out toward the gums, is pushed closer to the surface too. Less warm gum protection and thinner enamel protection can now give you sensitive teeth.
Now with fully erupted teeth the roots of your teeth can begin being exposed to a host of sensitivity provoking stimuli. Stuff that can make your teeth hurt.
Remember the holes in the dentin nerve protecting layer I mentioned earlier? Those holes run from the outside of your tooth all the way into the center where the nerve lives. Fluid normally moves slowly in and out of those tubes. When fluid moves quickly, your teeth hurt. Breathing cold air causes the fluids to move quickly. Alcohol can pull water out of the roots, causing sensitivity after a night of drinking. Sugar can do the same, but can also create acids that will dissolve any natural corks your body attempt to form, closing off the root holes.
Naked, Exposed Tooth Root Sensitivity
Naked tooth roots can occur even under your gums as you begin to have what is called gum recession, gums moving slowly exposing the root of your tooth. Not naked, embarrassing, naked, but naked and not protected naked. It is not even visually noticeable, but you can feel sensitivity if you rub your teeth at the gumline with your fingernail.
Normally, in non-sensitive teeth, the holes in exposed roots have corks in them. These corks are made of minerals like calcium and phosphate that come from your saliva. If the corks stay in place the holes are protected and no sensitive teeth.
What Causes The Corks To Disappear?
Let’s assume you are brushing your teeth a couple of times a day. You are trying to chase away left over groceries you’ve eaten. Those leftovers are food for bacteria living in your mouth that poop out acids to dissolve the mineral corks that were keeping your teeth comfortable.
Dissolving the mineral corks gives you sensitive teeth. If enough acid is produced by bacteria it can also dissolve the protective enamel above the gumline uncovering the dentin holes.
Whether you expose the holes in the dentin layer by dissolving enamel or the the mineral corks sensitivity starts to skyrocket and you are miserable.
How Do I Protect The Roots Of My Teeth?
It is easy. Protect the enamel and protect the mineral corks in the dentin layer.
How do I do that?
Start Brushing With The Right Brush
Chase out the food hanging around your teeth as it just feeds the acid producing bacteria. Reducing the acid, protects the mineral enamel and the minerals corks standing guard over the dentin, stopping sensitivity.
The Best Brush- The Nimbus Brush
Brush with an ultra-soft tooth brush. My favorite is the Nimbus brush, used with circular scrubbing motions at the tooth gum junction. These ultra-soft bristles clean out leftover food and acid producing bacteria from the gum crevices where the corks in the dentin are visible. Protect the cork plugs, and you have cut sensitivity drastically.
Got Sensitivity? Stop Using An Electric Brush
If you are using an electric toothbrush it’s likely contributing to your sensitivity problem. As a group they have bristles that are too stiff, in my opinion, for cleaning at the gumline without scouring away the protective mineral corks in your dentin. Electric brushes can also have a tendency to drive gum tissue away from the enamel, exposing more and more naked tooth root areas.
Don’t Leave Acid Foods On Your Teeth
Cut down on all citrus fruits, as they contain high levels of citric acid. If you must eat them, don’t leave any remnants behind. Rinse with water or water and little baking soda. It doesn’t taste great but it will help sensitivity by neutralizing acid.
Cut out sugars of all kinds, as well as your high carbohydrate snacks. Otherwise, you are fighting an uphill battle that you will ultimately lose
Avoid All Diet Sodas-And Regular Ones Too
Acids in sodas start with the bubbly. Dissolved carbon dioxide causes the fizzy bubbles, and makes carbonic acid. Manufacturers also add assorted acids for flavor, giving even more enamel and mineral cork dissolving powers to sodas. Throw in up to 10 teaspoons of sugar or more in a serving and you’ve got a sensational sensitivity generator.
Tooth Pastes Cause Sensitivity
Who would think that switching to a “total” does everything, smile brightening, breath freshening, tartar reducing, “enamel protecting” high fluoride toothpaste would cause so much sensitivity? I see it all the time. Use a basic non-fluoride tooth paste such as the Doterra brand, PerioPaste or Earth Paste, and watch your sensitivity go away. So many of the multi-do everything types create a lot of sensitivity.
Home Remedies For Sensitive Teeth
A number of home remedies are available online that deal with many aspects of tooth decay and tooth sensitivity. Many require a substantial revision of your current diet to alter mineral availability within your body. Recipes for a variety of homemade toothpastes can also be found on many sites.
One recipe variant consists of several ingredients:
5 parts bone meal powder
2 parts baking soda
3 parts xylitol powder
3-5 parts coconut oil
Essential oils for taste eg. Mint, cinnamon or orange
The ingredients are blended together and stored in a jar. The bonemeal supplies calcium and phosphate mineral in the same ratios as bone and teeth. An ultra-fine bristle toothbrush, using a circular scrubbing technique, is necessary to avoid damaging root surfaces or gum tissue. The reports of success are anecdotal, but let us know what you think.
OK Its Not Working, I’ve Still Got Sensitivity
You dentist my be your next step. If your sensitivity has been determined to be due to exposed or naked root surfaces, there are treatments available the involve no drilling and light drilling.
Your dentist can also try a variety of sensitivity reducing treatments. The least invasive is MI-Paste application. It uses a dentin cork mineral promoting formulation including calcium and phosphate, the building blocks of natural tooth minerals. This is applied to the sensitive area at bedtime after brushing to change the environment from a tooth mineral dissolving one to a tooth re-mineralizing one.
Diode Laser Therapy
Another dentist treatment to try is the use of a diode laser. At appropriate power settings, the cell living within the dentin tube, is thought to be altered to form a protein plug deeper within the dentin layer. This is reported to have longer lasting sensitivity reduction without shots or drilling.
One of the next things that can be tried is a bonded coating of the surface of the tooth with a plastic material that plugs the tubes. This is also done without shots of drilling.
Gumline Resin Fillings
And finally, a filling can be placed that will usually stop the sensitivity but it may require numbing and drilling to accomplish. It is more extreme but sometimes the only way the sensitivity reduction can be accomplished.
We covered the basics of how a tooth is built. Sensitivity can occur from large nerves in teeth that diminish in size with time. But that takes years. The more a tooth erupts the less protection is afforded against cold by warm gum tissue. The root of a tooth is not protected by enamel. Any root surface exposed to the mouth, even under the gums, can be a source of sensitivity due to holes that allow fluid movement.
Alcohol and sugars can cause fluid movement causing sensitivity. Your body is trying to build corks in the root surface that will keep your teeth from being sensitive. Encourage the formation of those corks and protect them to reduce the number of your teeth sensitive to cold.
The best and most appropriate method for your situation may be determined with the guidance of your holistic dentist or biological dentist. Call one today.