The Basics on Dentinal Hypersensitivity

What is it?

Dentinal hypersensitivity occurs when the nerves in the dentin of a tooth are exposed to the environment. The resulting sensation can be anywhere from extremely painful to mildly irritating. People experiencing hypersensitivity may avoid very cold drinks or other foods coming directly from the refrigerator.

How does it affect dental care?

Dentinal hypersensitivity can cause normal dental treatments to be very painful. This can result in a negative view of dental care for the patient, and ultimately avoidance of proper professional care.

How common is it?

The occurrence rate is about 1 in 5 American adults.

What causes it?

There are a number of causes for hypersensitivity, but a few known causes include a diet high in acidic foods (fruit, fruit juices, wine, etc.), acid reflux, tooth grinding, or improper toothbrushing.

What can I do about it?

If you are experiencing dentinal hypersensitivity, there are several treatment options. Desensitizing toothpastes or mouthwashes (Sensodyne, etc.) are available for at-home treatment. These have shown positive, but not dramatic, results. In-office treatments can include the use of dental sealants, the use of fluoride, oxalate products, and having fillings put over exposed roots.

If you think you may have dentinal hypersensitivity, call your dental professional to find out your options to find the best treatment for you.

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