As our teeth are exposed to more & more foods that wear away enamel, our teeth can become sensitive to things like hot & cold food & drink. This sensitivity can be a sign of a cavity, but there are steps you can take to mitigate this feeling & maybe even avoid a filling or more serious treatment.
Found in public water (not wells) throughout the United States, fluoride helps your body retain enamel & therefore resistance to possible irritants. While the fluoride levels in drinking water are low, they are generally good enough to help people with non-sugary diets. For those who have maybe ingested a few too many sweets over the years, your dentist can provide a fluoride treatment to bolster your defenses. These treatments are also common for children under 18 & are commonly covered by insurance plans for children.
Fluoride works by adding minerals back to your enamel. While your enamel never grows back, this process strengthens your remaining enamel against sugars & acidic foods that cause tooth decay.
Desensitizing & Bonding
These methods can be great for more serious pain that comes from more exposed parts of the tooth, especially around the gumline. A hard resin is cemented to the exposed root area which provides the same type of protection as your natural enamel. While this is a larger treatment than fluoride, it can treat sensitivity caused by issues such as receding gums, where there never was as much enamel to begin with & therefore strengthen.
Bonding is applied by your dentist & typically only takes one visit, with a brief recovery time as the resin hardens & you become used to the slight change in your affected teeth. Avoid eating hot foods directly after treatment. A local numbing agent may be used to make the treatment more comfortable.
The biggest treatment on the list is the root canal. While it involves drilling, it’s nowhere near the pain public sentiment would have you believe. Your dentist will take great care to save as much of your tooth as possible during the procedure, and local and general anesthesia make the procedure far less painful. Root canals work well for large levels of pain that won’t go away, even when there is no exposure to irritating substances. To avoid getting a root canal, be sure to brush well around your gumline & floss often to clean out the tight gaps in between teeth.
A root canal is a procedure in which the dentist removes infected or inflamed dental pulp—the innermost part of your tooth—which then reduces sensitivity. Recovery time can be a little longer, but you should be able to return to normal eating after a few days with proper care. Talk to your dentist about the proper aftercare procedures if you think a root canal is right for you.
While we all hope to have strong, pain-free smiles our whole lives, we may need a little help along the way. Just remember that the best way to avoid pain is to have a great hygiene routine that includes regular six-month cleanings at the dentist.