Wear sunglasses? You may have sensitive teeth

December 16, 2002

If you avoid bright light, loud noises, heavy perfumes and itchy clothing, you may find that you avoid hot and cold foods because you have sensitive teeth.

A new study, that appears in the November/December 2002 issue of General Dentistry, the Academy's clinical peer-reviewed journal, confirms that people with sensitivities to special senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) also have sensitive teeth. Lead author Norman C. Bitter, DDS, FAGD, studied 47 patients with sensitive teeth and found a direct relationship between the two, with one of the most notable findings that all patients expressed a need to wear sunglasses when outdoors, helping to confirm this connection.

Tooth sensitivity is caused by the stimulation of cells in tiny tubes located in the tissue found underneath the hard enamel that contains the inner pulp. Hot and cold beverages, grinding or clenching teeth or brushing too hard can irritate the tubes and increase sensitivity.

At least 45 million Americans and 5 million Canadians suffer from tooth sensitivity. Although patients cannot control sensitivity, they can take proactive steps to decrease or even alleviate the pain. "Try over the counter products such as brushing with specially formulated toothpaste for sensitive teeth and drinking tea, which has tannic acid, to temporarily reduce pain," suggests Dr. Bitter.

The tannic acid clogs the material in the opened dental tubes, which means hot and cold temperatures will have a harder time seeping in and hitting the pulp of the tooth, which is what triggers the pain.

Have anxiety and sensitive teeth?

Often patients are afraid to visit the dentist when tooth becomes sensitive and feel this condition may lead to a root canal or tooth loss. "There's no need to worry," advises David Tecosky, DDS, MAGD, spokesperson for the Academy. "Sensitivity is a common problem that can be dealt with easily as long as you talk to your dentist."

Academy of General Dentistry

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