Alvin H. Danenberg, DDS • Nutritional Periodontist
May 1, 2017
Kevin scheduled a consultation with me on the Internet through Skype. His question was, “Why do I have tooth-root sensitivity?” He told me he had sensitivity on some of the roots of his teeth for over 3 years. He wanted to hear my thoughts since he had not been able to get relief. I explained some of the causes and some of the solutions to his distress.
Root sensitivity can be very painful. It is the least successfully treated chronic problems involving the teeth. Some studies suggest that over 60% of adults complain of root sensitivity on a daily basis. Do you have tooth-root sensitivity?
There is an array of treatments that have been used in the dental office to try to lessen or eliminate root sensitivity. Most of the treatment consists of “covering up” the root surface with different chemicals to protect the nerve endings within the tooth from irritating substances in the mouth. Cover-up treatments usually don’t address the real causes, and cover-up treatments are usually temporary.
Causes Of Root Sensitivity
Various things could cause root sensitivity. If these causes could be identified and treated, then root sensitivity could be eliminated. Here are some of the possible causes:
Sometimes, a poorly placed filling in a tooth can cause root sensitivity. At other times, incorrect and aggressive flossing could cause tears in the gum tissue resulting in root sensitivity. Active tooth decay on the root surface or leakage around an existing filling could cause sensitivity. Heavy biting or chewing forces between the upper and lower teeth also could cause roots to become sensitivity. Possible microscopic fractures in the root can irritate the nerve and cause root sensitivity. Sometimes the nerve and vascular tissues inside the root of the tooth (called the pulp) might become inflamed, which could cause severe sensitivity and pain. Treating these causes might stop the sensitivity. If root sensitivity is not caused by any of these problems, then other causes need to be explored.
Other causes could involve the exposure of root surfaces. This might happen from active gum disease, orthodontic treatment, and grinding and clenching habits. All of these could cause gum recession exposing the surface of the roots. After root surfaces become exposed, the protective surface layer on the root could be lost. Acids in the mouth can dissolve this protective layer. These acids could come from dental plaque, gum disease, or very acidic food and drink. Also, abrasion from aggressive tooth brushing on the exposed roots could wear away the protective layer. Proper oral hygiene, treatment for gum disease, and elimination of bite problems might reduce root sensitivity. Also, it is important to eat nutrient-dense foods, which can help harden sensitive root surfaces.
In addition, gum grafting over the sensitive roots might be able to decrease sensitivity.
Natural Methods To Reduce Sensitivity
As I mentioned, there are chemicals that have been placed on the surfaces of sensitive roots to create a protective layer. Most of them are only temporary. However, here are two recently published peer-reviewed studies suggesting two unusual and effective products:
Research has shown that casein protein and minerals in milk have the potential to help remineralize sensitive root surfaces. In this randomized controlled trial, patients with sensitive roots were divided into an experimental group and a control group. The experimental group had to rinse with two tablespoons of milk at room temperature five times daily for five minutes for fifteen days. The control group had to rinse with lukewarm water. The experimental group who used milk had a significant reduction of sensitivity and pain.
Propolis is a substance collected by honeybees. Among other purposes, bees use propolis to repair their hives. Propolis is antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and anesthetic.
Adults with sensitive roots were studied in this randomized and double blind 3-month trial. Researchers applied topical preparations of propolis, 5% potassium nitrate, and just distilled water onto different sensitive roots of these subjects. The preparation using propolis provided significantly more reduction in sensitivity immediately. In addition, by the end of three months, the propolis-treated teeth had even more reduction of root sensitivity.
Your dentist should determine what could be causing root sensitivity, as I discussed in this article. The first treatment should consist of bringing these factors under control. If there is remaining root sensitivity because the loss of the protective layer, then a nutrient-dense diet along with the use of propolis or milk could solve the problem.