An End To Cavities For People With Sensitive Teeth?

An ice cold drink is refreshing in the summer, but for people with sensitive teeth, it can cause a painful jolt in the mouth. This condition can be treated, but many current approaches don’t last long. Now researchers report in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces the development of a new material with an extract from green tea that could fix this problem – and help prevent cavities in these susceptible patients.

Tooth sensitivity commonly occurs when the protective layers of teeth are worn away, revealing a bony tissue called dentin. This tissue contains microscopic hollow tubes that, when exposed, allow hot and cold liquids and food to contact the underlying nerve endings in the teeth, causing pain.

Dentin

Unprotected dentin is also vulnerable to cavity formation. Plugging these tubes with a mineral called nanohydroxyapatite is a long-standing approach to treating sensitivity. But the material doesn’t stand up well to regular brushing, grinding, erosion or acid produced by cavity-causing bacteria. Cui Huang and colleagues wanted to tackle sensitivity and beat the bacteria at the same time.

Green Tea

The researchers encapsulated nanohydroxyapatite and a green tea polyphenol – epigallocatechin-3-gallate or EGCG in silica nanoparticles, which can stand up to acid and wear and tear. EGCG has been shown in previous studies to fight Streptococcus mutans, which forms biofilms that cause cavities.

Testing on extracted wisdom teeth showed that the material plugged the dentin tubules, released EGCG for at least 96 hours, stood up to tooth erosion and brushing and prevented biofilm formation. It also showed low toxicity. Based on these findings, the researchers say the material could indeed be a good candidate for combating tooth sensitivity and cavities.

 

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

An ice cream cone on a hot July day can be a tasty way to beat the heat, but if you’re one of the millions of people who have sensitive teeth, then that cold treat can be a real pain. So, what causes your teeth to fear the sweet embrace of cold, delicious treat, or on the other hand, a good cup of hot coffee? An expert from the Texas A&M College of Dentistry explains what causes sensitive teeth and how to strengthen your pearly whites.

Teeth are complicated, and as we use them, we wear down our enamel – which protects our teeth. “When the inner layer of the tooth, called the dentin, is exposed to the oral environment, there is access to the dentinal tubules,” said Jane Cotter, RDH, MS, assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Dentistry. “Hydrodynamic fluid movement, caused by stimuli within the dentinal tubules, stimulates the nerve and that causes a pain response.”

The most common factor related to sensitive teeth is gum recession. When the gum begins to recede, the tooth’s root becomes exposed, resulting in sensitivity. Other causes of sensitive teeth are toothbrush abrasion, periodontal therapy – treatment for periodontal disease, tooth decay or faulty restorations, excessive grinding or excessive bleaching.

“What you eat and drink can also cause your teeth to become more sensitive,” Cotter said. “Sodas – both diet and regular – energy drinks, fruit juice, wine and coffee can all worsen your teeth sensitivity. Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, are also active in this sense, but less than with liquids.”

Sensitive Teeth And The Chills

Despite what it may feel like, the cold weather is actually affecting your sinuses, and not your teeth, at least not directly.

“Changes in atmospheric pressure can cause pressure in the sinuses that are located above the upper posterior teeth,” Cotter said. “The sinus pressure can lower the pain threshold for these teeth making them more sensitive to external stimuli – like cold water or air.”

This can make everyday activities, such as running, difficult to do in cold weather without feeling some pain in your mouth. However, luckily there are ways to offset your sensitive teeth and conquer the elements once again.

Treating Sensitive Teeth

Having sensitive teeth can be really dull. Not being able to enjoy an ice cream cone, a cold-weather workout or your favorite whitening toothpaste can be inconvenient. Luckily, there are ways to de-sensitize your teeth. “Be sure you’re using a soft bristle toothbrush or mechanical toothbrush to help control the pressure when brushing.”

If you can’t shake off your sensitive teeth at home using products from your local drug store, there are ways to possibly improve your sensitive teeth at your dental health care provider’s office.

“Ask your health care provider about products that can close the open dentinal tubes or desensitize the nerve endings,” Cotter said. “If necessary, the sensitive area may be restored with filling material.”

Talking With Your Health Care Provider

Sensitive teeth may seem like a minor inconvenience, but Cotter stresses the importance of being candid with your dental health provider about any changes or sensitive areas you notice. The more information you can give your provider, the better. Keep track of duration, type of pain, triggers, location, and any other detail regarding your sensitive teeth that can help your provider assess the situation.

“Tooth sensitivity is an indication of a change in the tooth or supporting tissue,” Cotter said. “Whether it’s tooth decay, infection or dentin hypersensitivity, it should be addressed. If it’s causing you to change your normal habits – such as what or how you eat – then intervention is needed.”