If you’ve ever experienced sensitivity in your teeth to hot or cold food and liquids, you may have heard of toothpastes like Sensodyne. These kinds of toothpastes are marketed as treating sensitivity, but how do they work? Are they just masking pain that should be dealt with? Let’s find out!
What causes sensitivity?
First, we need to know what causes sensitivity in the first place. The simplest explanation is that teeth become sensitive when a part of their outer covering — the enamel — is compromised in some way. The enamel layer is hard and mineralized, and protects the sensitive part of your teeth. Under the enamel is the dentin layer, which is not hard. This dentin layer extends to the root of each tooth (i.e. inside your gums).
Whenever the dentin layer is exposed, air, food and liquids can excite the nervous tissue present inside the deeper dental pulp, especially when the food or liquid is very hot or very cold. This is most often the source of the pain and sensitivity.
How do desensitizing toothpastes work?
Desensitizing toothpastes contain ingredients such as potassium nitrate and strontium chloride, which block pain signals by stopping up the tiny channels in your teeth which extend down to the nerves in your gums. Certain desensitizing toothpastes, such as Sensodyne Repair & Protect also contain stannous fluoride, which helps to form a protective layer over the exposed dentin.
Remember, except in cases of minor erosion, lost enamel cannot be restored. These anti-sensitivity formulations only work by blocking the transmission of pain signals by the exposed nerves.
The good news is that each of these ingredients build up in the teeth, which means you can experience long-lasting relief from sensitivity. Keep in mind, it may take a few weeks to start noticing any improvement!
If you don’t deal with sensitivity in your teeth, there’s really no need to use a special toothpaste like Sensodyne. If you do deal with it, Sensodyne is perfectly safe, and a good option.
How does dentin become exposed in the first place?
Exposure of dentin can occur for any of the following reasons, some of which are treatable:
- Erosion of enamel due to the poor oral hygiene.
- Excessive grinding, or bruxism.
- Gum recession due to an underlying gum or periodontal problem.
- Broken or cracked teeth due to cavities or injury.
Do I need to see a dentist if my teeth are sensitive to hot or cold?
You should definitely mention any pain or sensitivity when you come in for an appointment. We’ll be able to tell if there are any underlying issues that can be treated. For instance, you may have fractured a tooth without knowing it, which could easily result in sensitivity to hot and cold. (Even a hairline fracture could result in sensitivity.)
And if you haven’t already seen a dentist to deal with the underlying cause of your sensitivity, call us today at (850) 492-7647 to schedule an exam.