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Watching out for sensitive teeth
Updated: 3/5/2008 4:05:26 PM

When someone says they have sensitive teeth, knowing what causes sensitivity can be the first step in helping to alleviate the symptoms.

A visit to the dentist will allow them to look at a patient's dental history and will ask about oral habits, with grinding or clenching teeth a possible contributor to sensitivity. Decay, deep metal fillings or exposed root surfaces are other possible red flags to sensitive teeth and are best examined by a professional.

Dentinal sensitivity occurs when the dentin, or the middle layer, of a tooth is exposed. Normally the dentin is covered by enamel above the gumline and by cementum below the gumline. Tiny openings called tubules lie inside of each tubule within a nerve branch that comes from the tooth's pulp, or the center of the tooth.

When the dentin is exposed therefore, any cold or hot temperature or pressure can affect these nerve branches and cause sensitivity.

Things can cause sensitive teeth to become more pronounced are: drinking or eating cold or hot things, eating sweets or touching the teeth with other teeth or the tongue.

In more severe cases if a single tooth changes from cold to hot sensitivity, the tooth's nerve could be dying a visit to an oral surgeon or a dentist is necessary to see if a root canal treatment is needed.


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