Dr. Michael Handler

What Causes Root Sensitivity and How to Treat It

By Dr. Michael Handler

Are you experiencing painful twinges when you brush your teeth, or getting toothache every time you eat hot or cold foods? You might have some exposed tooth roots, which can cause oral sensitivity and even trigger serious dental problems. That’s because the roots of your teeth contain nerve pulp and bony dentin, covered by a protective material we call cementum. This isn’t as hard as tooth enamel, and it can easily deteriorate because of gum disease or become worn away from tooth brushing, leaving the roots exposed. Some of the other reasons for exposure are smoking, tooth grinding and orthodontic work. 

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How to Recognize an Exposed Tooth Root

The most common  symptom of an exposed tooth root is the sudden sensitivity of your teeth. A sudden, sharp flash of pain when the tooth meets cold air, hot food, sweet or acidic items is a strong indicator. Some people also experience sensitivity when they brush or floss their teeth. 

Examine the teeth in the sensitive part of your mouth in a mirror to see if your gums show signs of receding. The teeth might look longer than before, or the gums could be red, swollen or bleeding, all of which are indications of gum disease. In particularly severe cases, the gums will have receded enough to show the root of the tooth or teeth. 

Initial Treatment for an Exposed Tooth Root

Treating an exposed tooth root first requires your dentist in Scarborough to pay attention to the gums surrounding the tooth. Unless the tooth itself is damaged, for example through trauma or injury, the root exposure is most likely caused by gum problems. 

The first step we usually recommend is to stop using anything that could cause gum deterioration. This includes smoking or other tobacco usage or  oral/facial piercings, both of which can be detrimental to your oral health. These will help encourage your gum tissue to regrow, provided you don’t have actual gum disease. Dr. Handler might also suggest using a special toothpaste, which seals the pores on the surface of the teeth. He’ll ask you about your oral hygiene regimen and the methods of brushing you use, and whether you suffer from acid reflux. The final treatment will depend on what is causing the exposure of your tooth root in the first place. 

Surgical Treatment Options

In particularly bad cases of root sensitivity, you might need  gum or flap surgery to correct the problem. If this type of treatment seems necessary, we will refer you to a gum health specialist or periodontist. You may be a candidate for a gum graft, which works like a skin graft using gum tissue. The surgeon takes tissue from one part of your mouth and attaches it to the exposed root area. The transferred tissue will then start to grow and merge with the existing gum to cover up the problem roots. 

What You Can Do at Home

Prevention is always better than trying to cure root sensitivity, so keep a close eye on your oral hygiene and make sure you take care of your gums. Use quality dental products like toothbrushes, toothpastes and mouth rinses that remove the plaque from your teeth before it hardens to become tartar.  Poor eating and sleeping habits can weaken your immunity to problems like gum disease, so it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle. 

Examine your teeth regularly in a mirror and be aware of any changes in sensation that you experience in the mouth. Get regular dental checkups and have your teeth professionally cleaned every 6 months, and  don’t waste any time in getting medical attention for anything that causes pain. 

For more information on treating sensitive tooth roots, please book an appointment with our dentist in Scarborough at 416-267-4661, or  click here to book online

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