When you take a sip of something very hot or very cold, or take a gulp of a very acidic drink, do you feel a sharp pain, or just a weird sensation? You may have tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity. It’s a common condition, affecting around 40 million people in the US alone.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Lots of different things can cause tooth sensitivity. For example, if your tooth enamel has been worn down, your tooth will become more sensitive. This can happen from bite problems like bruxism or TMJ. Using a toothbrush that’s too stiff, or brushing your teeth too aggressively can wear down your teeth. Acidic food and drink can also erode the enamel on your teeth, and likewise the acid from your stomach can damage your enamel if you have bulimia or acid reflux.
You may also suffer from tooth sensitivity if the roots of your teeth have become exposed due to gum disease, aggressive toothbrushing, or other causes of receding gums.
While tooth sensitivity on its own is unpleasant, even worse are the silent consequences that come with it: Enamel doesn’t just protect your teeth from sensation, but also from bacteria and decay. If your enamel is worn down enough to cause sensitivity, you are probably also at significantly higher risk of getting cavities.
In most cases, proper oral hygiene can prevent tooth sensitivity, and can be the key to resolving it, too.
How is Tooth Sensitivity Treated?
If you come to your dentist with complaints about tooth sensitivity, they will have some options to help. Your dentist can not only recommend a gentler toothpaste, they can even prescribe special fluoride toothpaste or rinse to reduce sensitivity and help strengthen your teeth.
In many cases, simply stopping the action that is causing the sensitivity can help reduce symptoms. So if you are brushing too hard, brushing softer can reduce sensitivity over time. Or if you suffer from acid reflux, treatment that helps control that acid can also keep your teeth safe from further acid wear.
Recently, researchers have identified another possible treatment for tooth sensitivity: Green tea.
How Can Tea Help Teeth?
Dr. Cui Huang, of Wuhan University in China, and some colleagues thought green tea extract could hold the key to treating tooth sensitivity, so they conducted a study.
In the study, the researchers created a variation on the commonly used tooth sensitivity treatment called nanohydroxyapatite. They added a compound created from the most active polyphenol in green tea, and tested this new biomaterial to see if it could block bacteria from penetrating dentin and causing sensitivity. Tests revealed that the new material was not only effective at blocking the bacteria, but was also resistant to erosion and abrasion.
Will green tea-based tooth sensitivity treatments show up in your local drugstore soon? Probably not. But this research could certainly help guide tooth sensitivity treatments over the coming decades.
For now, if you suffer from tooth sensitivity and want to learn about possible treatments, call