There it sits; a delicious bowl of ice cream from your favorite ice cream parlor, but the thought of indulging fills your mind with dread and shivers down your spine. No, it’s not from the calories, but just the thought of something cold touching your teeth.

If this sounds familiar, you might be one of the over 40 million Americans that suffer from tooth sensitivity. This sensitivity can be caused by a number of reasons, including, but not limited to: cavities, cracked or fractured teeth, gum disease, worn teeth, or exposed root structure due to gum recession.

In a normal, healthy tooth, there are a number of layers. You’ve probably heard of the enamel, the protective outer layer of the tooth. It is also the part of the tooth that lies above the gum line. Under the gums, another protective layer is present covering the roots called cementum. This layer not only helps protect the root but also is deeply involved in the repair of our teeth.

Underneath both enamel and cementum is the dentin layer. The dentin is comprised of small tubules which allow hot, cold, or acidic stimuli from foods to travel to the center of the tooth where the nerve resides. When the dentin layer loses the protection of either the enamel or cementum, that was when hypersensitivity can occur.

There are several ways to help combat hypersensitivity. For milder sensitivity, simple techniques like changing your brushing technique and routine can have a positive impact. Hard bristle toothbrushes and aggressive brushing techniques can cause an increase in tooth wear.

The toothpaste we use can also have an effect on sensitivity. We all want a brighter, whiter smile, but sometimes whitening toothpaste can actually make our teeth more sensitive. There are desensitizing toothpastes available that can help prevent an irritating stimulus, like hot or cold, to reach the nerve of the tooth. It may take several uses for this type of toothpaste to be effective.

For hypersensitivity beyond mild discomfort, your dentist can provide a number of treatment options that can help provide relief. These can include applying fluoride gel, placing a crown or protective filling, and in some cases of extreme sensitivity a root canal may be necessary.

Every tooth is different and only your dentist can best decide the necessary treatment for your hypersensitivity. Don’t live with tooth sensitivity and having to avoid certain things. If tooth sensitivity is causing you problems, visit your dentist today to find the best solution for you so you can go back to enjoying your favorite foods, like mint chocolate chip ice cream!

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