Feb 16, 2015 by Mark
Many people in the UK suffer with sensitive teeth that cause them pain whenever their teeth encounter hot or cold food and drink, or even a gust of cold wind. However, scientists in Taiwan are now developing a revolutionary new material that they think may, in time, allow dentists to rebuild tooth surfaces and put an end to sensitive teeth for long periods.
Tooth sensitivity is very common, and as well as being painful it can signal serious dental problems. Teeth generally become sensitive when the enamel, which is the hard outer layer of the tooth, begins to degrade or is damaged. This leaves the tiny, porous tubes - known as tubules - within the tooth exposed, and makes the nerves beneath more vulnerable to temperature.
At the moment, the main treatment for sensitive teeth is the use of special toothpastes, which often contain potassium nitrate or similar substances, to block the tubules in the teeth so that extremes of temperature cannot reach the nerves. However, the protection given by special toothpastes is purely temporary and cannot withstand brushing and chewing, but many people fail to maintain their use of such toothpastes, and as soon as they stop using them, the pain returns.
The Taiwanese team made up a paste using elements that are found in teeth, such as calcium and phosphorus. Having applied the paste to dogs' teeth, they noticed that it blocked tubules much more effectively than other treatment, which has led them to suggest that it might, in due course, become a viable treatment for humans.
Of course, it is likely to take some time for this treatment to reach the public but fortunately, there are other ways of combating the pain of sensitive teeth in the meantime. These include:
- Find effective toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, and use it over the long term.
- Do not brush teeth too hard, since this can erode enamel and make teeth more sensitive. Use a soft brush and apply moderate pressure when using it. Try not to brush from side to side, as this is known to erode enamel, especially where the teeth and gums meet.
- Avoid acidic food and drink, such as red wine, fruit juice and citrus fruits, and/or brush teeth within 20 minutes of consuming them. Acid can attack tooth enamel.
- Talk to a dentist about getting protective barriers applied: these are generally substances that are painted onto the teeth. They tend to wear off over time so will probably have to be re-applied. Dentists can also apply seals and barriers to the areas where the teeth and gums meet, which can be helpful.
- Talk to a dentists before undergoing dental procedures such as tooth bleaching, which can cause teeth to become sensitive.
- Get a dentist to check for, and if necessary fix, any cracked teeth or fillings, since these are causes of sensitivity.
- Seek treatment for tooth grinding, which wears away enamel. Treatments include the wearing of special mouth guards at night.