While this blog is not a substitute for an evaluation of your tooth in my office, I’d like to share some quick facts about tooth sensitivity.
First, you are not alone. In fact, nearly five million of your friends and neighbors across California suffer from tooth sensitivity every year. Many avoid hot and cold foods as a result. Two of every three cases of sensitive teeth can be resolved with simple professional treatment or proven homecare protocols. However, more than 1.8 million root canals are required each year in the Golden State in order to put a stop to teeth that hurt.
If you are one of the millions with tooth sensitivity, your next step depends on the magnitude and duration of the pain.
Count to 10
If the exposure to hot or cold causes pain or discomfort that lasts for only a few seconds, the problem is not likely to be serious. In these situations, the sensitivity may be due to minor decay, a missing or loose filling, or minimal recession of your gums. You should schedule a visit with us in the near future, but it is unlikely to result in the need for a root canal. A cavity may need to be repaired, a filling replaced, or an exposed root desensitized. For exposed roots, we recommend brushing at least two times per day in a vertical pattern or small circles with a soft bristle toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes, fluoride rinses, and desensitizing toothpastes like Sensodyne could also be important parts of the solution. A remineralizing agent containing calcium phosphate and fluoride (MI Paste is a good one) may help. It’s also important to avoid exposure to acidic foods and beverages as these can increase root sensitivity, dissolve enamel and also lead to decay.
Lasts Longer than Your Favorite Commercial
When the sensitivity lasts 30 seconds or longer, you have likely suffered permanent damage to the pulp chamber (inside) of your tooth. This could be the result of a deep cavity, a cracked tooth, or trauma to a tooth. Whatever the case, you should schedule an evaluation with us within a few days because the pain may soon become constant and severe. Even if the pain temporarily subsides, a root canal is necessary if the living tissue in the pulp chamber has become infected or irreversibly inflamed.
A Root Canal, Really?
Root canals are the Rodney Dangerfield of dentistry. They just do not get any respect. In reality, a root canal is a quick, economical and efficient way to get out of pain. To be specific, it is a procedure involving removal of the diseased area of your tooth, disinfecting the remaining tooth structure, and filliing the void with gutta-percha (an inert filling material). According to the American Association of Endodontists, 90% of people are happy with the results of their root canals. To me, the reasons are obvious. A patient arrives at the dental office in pain. After the appointment, the patient walks with a smile!
If tooth sensitivity is causing you to stay away from that next double-dip chocolate cone, listen to your body. It is giving you an early warning sign that your teeth need some TLC. It very well could be time to pick up the phone and give us a call.