Identifying and Treating Tooth Sensitivity

woman in bed with a toothacheTypically, your teeth shouldn’t feel anything other than the pressures of biting and chewing. The outer layer of mineral crystals that surrounds your teeth, called tooth enamel, is the most resilient substance your body produces, and is designed to seal off and protect the more vulnerable structures of your teeth. Teeth roots, which aren’t covered by tooth enamel, are protected by your gums as they extend into the jawbone, where they rest inside sockets and are held in place by periodontal ligaments. Your Lake Forest dentist, Dr. Fondriest, warns that tooth sensitivity occurs when your teeth’s protective structures are compromised, and can range from mild to severe depending on your exact situation. Identifying the cause of your toothache is essential to treating it, and you should visit our office immediately if your tooth hurts to prevent further damage and the need for extensive treatment.

Weak/Thin Tooth Enamel

Enamel is made entirely of minerals, mainly calcium and phosphate, supplied by your teeth. When you eat or drink, the sugar and carbohydrates in your food/beverage feed certain oral bacteria that convert the carbs into acid. The organic acid depletes your teeth of minerals, weakens tooth enamel, and over time, can expose the more sensitive dentin underneath it. As the main body of your tooth, dentin contains small tubules that feed sensory information to your tooth’s nerves and blood vessels. When it’s exposed to oral bacteria, food debris, extreme temperatures, and other irritants, dentin can feel the disturbance and become sensitive.

Treatment:

Weak tooth enamel is the precursor to tooth decay—an internal tooth infection caused by invading bacteria—and the cavities that it causes. When detected early, enamel erosion can often be reversed with improved hygiene and possibly fluoride treatments.

Tooth Decay

Weak tooth enamel can regain its strength when acid is eliminated and your teeth’s minerals are replenished. If the enamel erodes enough to develop holes, then bacteria can slip past it and infect the tooth’s dentin. As tooth decay settles in, a small hole, or cavity, will develop, exacerbating your toothache and warning you of impending danger. The longer a cavity is left untreated, the further it can penetrate your tooth, and eventually, the infection can reach the sensitive nerves and blood vessels at the center of your tooth (called the pulp).

Treatment:

Treating a cavity depends on how severe it is by the time you seek treatment. Mild cavities that are caught at the dentin can often be treated by removing the infected structure, cleaning the cavity, and reinforcing the tooth a tooth-colored dental filling. Severe cases of tooth decay that involve infected pulp tissues may require a root canal treatment to stop the spread of infection and prevent the loss of your tooth.

Dental Damage

Tooth decay slowly destroys your tooth’s defenses to reach its most vulnerable tissues. A traumatic injury, such as a crack, fracture, or break, can render these defenses useless and immediately expose your tooth’s pulp to bacteria, food debris, hot and cold temperatures, and possible infection. Even if the tooth doesn’t hurt right away, visit us as soon as possible if it chips or cracks.

Treatment:

In most cases, a crack or fracture can be treated with a root canal treatment to ensure that the tooth isn’t infected, and then covered with a custom-made dental crown to protect it from the pressures of biting and chewing. Your porcelain crown will be designed to mimic the size, shape, and color of your tooth, as well as the way your healthy tooth enamel reflects light. Aside from restoring your tooth, a custom dental crown can also improve the tooth’s appearance and maintain your smile’s beauty.

About Lake Forest Dental Arts:

Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. At Lake Forest Dental Arts, Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from West Forest Lake, Kennedy, Lake Bluff, Skokie Junction, and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.