Handling Tooth Sensitivity-OUCH!

Although tooth sensitivity may not be a glamorous topic, it does affect millions of people.  In fact there are studies that show that one in every three adults suffers from tooth sensitivity.

Dental sensitivity can come from a multitude of causes.  Gum recession exposes exposed root surfaces, leading to sensitivity. Cavities, fractured teeth, teeth grinding, cracked teeth, and worn teeth exposing the underlying dentin all lead to tooth sensitivity. Finally, a difference in the osmotic gradient (differences in concentration of particles, in this case within the tooth and outside the tooth), can create pressure on the nerve and lead to sensitivity or pain.

Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity

Topical treatments

Treatments for tooth sensitivity vary and are determined on a case by case bases. Desensitizing toothpastes such as sensodyne are often the first line of treatment due to the minimal invasiveness and ease of implementation.  Sensodyne toothpastes work in one of two ways.  Those containing potassium nitrate as the active ingredient work by numbing the nerve endings within the tooth to decrease the nerve transmission.  The second way Sensodyne toothpastes work are by physically blocking the dentinal tubules and therefore reducing the transmission of outside stimulus to the nerve of the tooth with the use of stannous fluoride.  If toothpastes are not effective then the use of a topical desensitizer such as Gluma by Heraeuous Kulzer can be applied by a dental professional.  Gluma works by creating protein layers within the dentinal tubules, therefore blocking the transmission of pressure to the nerve of the tooth.

Prosthetic treatments

If these conservative treatments are not effective, prosthetic options can cover the exposed tooth structure. Prosthetics include bonded restoration, crown, or porcelain laminate. There are periodontal treatments as well, which can be successful.  These procedures treat the exposed root surface by surgically covering the exposed root surfaces with a gingival (gum) graft.  An endodontic approach to treating sensitivity or pain would be to physically remove the nerve of the tooth with root canal therapy.  And the most definitive approach, but not recommended, would be to remove the tooth altogether surgically. 


It is important to determine the cause of the sensitivity prior to determining the correct course of treatment.  The most conservative treatment possible should always be the first course of treatment.  If you have sensitivity please don’t hesitate to call Dr. Matthew Nadler’s convenient Midtown Manhattan dental practice at 212-757-3745 to ask your questions or arrange an appointment.