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What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

January 18th, 2022

IT CAN BE DIFFICULT to get any enjoyment out of a cozy mug of hot cocoa if every sip comes with a jolt of pain from sensitive teeth. An eighth of the U.S. population (including kids!) deals with some level of tooth sensitivity, so what causes it and how can we protect our teeth?

The Nerves Inside Our Teeth
A healthy tooth consists of a protective outer layer of enamel over a more porous layer of dentin, with a pulp chamber at the center. Dental pulp is made up of nerves and blood vessels, and those nerves receive sensory input for things like pressure and temperature changes through the thousands of microscopic tubules running through the dentin.

When Sensory Input Works Against Us

Enamel erosion is one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. If the protective enamel layer wears down, then it exposes the tubules in the dentin, which leads to the nerves suddenly getting a lot more stimulation than they like. They get a nasty shock when the tooth comes in contact with anything too hot or cold, or sometimes even anything too sweet or sour.

Other Causes of Sensitivity

Gum recession can expose the root of a tooth, which doesn’t have enamel protecting it the way the crown does. If overbrushing, teeth grinding, or gum disease leaves the root exposed, it can become very sensitive. Tooth injuries and cavities can also cause sensitivity because they weaken the structure of the tooth and compromise the enamel in other ways.

Sometimes teeth are temporarily sensitive after dental treatment!

Ways of Protecting Your Teeth
Fortunately, there are a few ways to fight back against tooth sensitivity and also ways to prevent it. Make sure to brush with a soft-bristled brush to prevent further enamel erosion or gum recession. It doesn’t actually take stiff bristles to effectively clean our teeth. Another way to combat the effects of sensitivity is to use special toothpaste formulated for special teeth, and it will also help to avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks — especially soda.

Get Help from the Dentist
There’s no need to suffer tooth sensitivity in silence; make sure the dentist knows! They can determine what’s causing the problem and provide solutions, including a fluoride varnish to strengthen tooth enamel, a prescription for a desensitizing toothpaste, or even a dental restoration or gum graft to cover exposed roots in more severe cases.

Thank you for being part of our practice family!

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions

Wait, Radioactive Toothpaste Was a Thing?

January 5th, 2022

RADIATION AND THE harm it can do to humans wasn’t well understood in the early years after it was discovered. There were all kinds of exciting radioactive products for the public to buy, from radioactive water jugs to children’s toys to butter to…toothpaste.

Thorium Toothpaste in 1920s Germany

A hundred years ago, the German company Auergesellschaft produced Doramad, a toothpaste with thorium as the (radio)active ingredient. Doramad was advertised as being great for fighting gum disease and polishing enamel. Meanwhile, in Paris, a radioactive cosmetics line called Tho-Radia included toothpaste.

Tubes of Doramad had some bold (and false) claims on their labels: “Its radioactive radiation increases the defenses of teeth and gums. The cells are loaded with new life energy, the bacteria are hindered in their destroying effect.” This was flagrant false advertising, and thankfully the radioactive toothpaste craze didn’t last long.

The Saga Continued With a WWII Caper
These kinds of fraudulent health and cosmetics companies were probably the reason behind an odd series of events that happened in WWII. While the Manhattan Project was underway in the US, a team of spies was tasked to discover how far the Nazis were getting with developing nuclear technology. What they found instead was a radioactive scam.

The Alsos Mission was an international operation of scientific, intelligence, and military officials established in 1943. Colonel Boris Pash and his men seized scientists, scientific data, and atomic materials as they followed on the heels of the advancing Allied forces, and they discovered someone was collecting radioactive materials like uranium and a stockpile of thorium smuggled from Paris to Germany by the Auer company.

The Alsos team was obsessed with solving the mystery of that thorium stockpile. In what first seemed like a huge success for the mission, they eventually tracked it down — only to discover that it was being kept in preparation for the end of the war, after which the Auer company planned to get rich making toothpaste out of it. That’s how the mission got its sarcastic nickname “Operation Toothpaste.”

Dentists Discovered the Dangers of Radiation First!
Two decades earlier in the United States, a dentist, Joseph Knef, traced the pattern of severe tooth and jaw problems in local young women back to their place of employment: the US Radium plant, where they all used radioactive paint. The reason it was causing such awful dental problems is that the women would lick their brushes to keep the bristles straight, putting the paint in direct contact with their teeth and gums.

Follow the Dentist’s Advice and Steer Clear of Fads

Thankfully nothing so dangerous as radioactive materials has become a popular dental fad in modern times, but it’s still a good idea to avoid getting dental health advice from unofficial sources. If you’re looking for a good toothpaste for you, just ask the dentist!

Do you know of any wild old-fashioned dental health products?

What’s in Toothpaste?

December 15th, 2021

MOST OF THE TIME, the only toothpaste ingredient that really gets talked about is fluoride, the active ingredient that helps remineralize tooth enamel and protects teeth from decay. The American Dental Association calls fluoride “nature’s cavity fighter,” and toothpaste must contain it in order to receive the ADA’s Seal of Acceptance.

Toothpaste containing fluoride is safe for young children if used in the correct amounts (a smear the size of a grain of rice up to age 3, the size of a pea from ages 3-6) and with parental supervision to make sure they spit it out. Let’s take a look at the other toothpaste ingredients.

Abrasives, such as calcium carbonate, dehydrated silica gels, and hydrated aluminum oxides, are toothpaste ingredients that help remove food debris and surface stains. They are there to scrub and polish the surface of our teeth, but be careful not to scrub too hard, because we can cause a lot of damage to our teeth and gums by overbrushing.

Flavors, including sugar-free sweetening agents like saccharin or sorbitol, make our toothpaste taste good (because fluoride and abrasives on their own do not). The ADA will not give its Seal of Acceptance to any toothpaste that contains sugar.


Humectants like sorbitol, glycol, or glycerol keep our toothpaste from becoming dry and crumbly. They trap water in it and give it a nice, smooth texture that can squeeze out of a tube.

Finally, detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate make toothpaste foamy, ensuring that the other ingredients effectively coat our teeth.

Diabetes and Our Teeth

November 9th, 2021

DIABETES, WHETHER TYPE 1, 2, or even gestational, makes it more difficult to maintain good dental health. There is a reciprocal relationship between oral health and diabetes, meaning that it’s harder to keep your teeth and gums healthy if you aren’t carefully managing the diabetes, but the diabetes also becomes harder to control if you aren’t prioritizing oral health.

An Overview of the Types of Diabetes
All three types of diabetes impact oral health, but they work in different ways. Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed early in life, and it involves the pancreas being unable to produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes (up to 95% of cases) is usually diagnosed decades into adulthood, and it involves the body failing to use insulin efficiently to regulate blood sugar. Gestational diabetes affects some pregnant women, who become less able to regulate blood sugar during pregnancy.

What Does Blood Sugar Have to Do With Oral Health?
Sugar is very harmful to teeth and gums because it’s what oral bacteria love to eat. Sugar in the bloodstream is also a problem, which is where diabetes comes in. High blood sugar is rough on the immune system and makes it hard for the body to fight back against pathogens — including oral bacteria. It leaves diabetic patients more vulnerable to oral inflammation and tooth decay.

Gum Disease and Diabetes
Over 20% of diabetics develop a form of gum disease anywhere from the early stages of inflammation (gingivitis) to advanced gum disease (periodontitis) that threatens the teeth, the gums, and even the supporting bone. Untreated gum disease can take a toll on overall health and even become life-threatening if the bacteria reach the bloodstream.

Gum disease symptoms to watch for include chronic bad breath, the gums becoming swollen, red, and prone to bleeding, receding gums, and loosening of the teeth. Any one of these symptoms could indicate poor gum health, and diabetes increases the risk of other problems such as slower healing, worse and more frequent infections, dry mouth, enlarged salivary glands, fungal infections, and burning mouth syndrome.

Diabetes Can Complicate Orthodontic Treatment

No matter what’s causing it, gum disease can present a challenge for orthodontic treatment. Parents of kids with type 1 diabetes should take extra care to help them keep their diabetes under control and to promote good oral health. Then, if they need braces, their treatment will be able to go forward and they will be able to enjoy the benefits of properly aligned teeth.

Controlling Diabetes Leads to Better Oral Health Outcomes
Diabetes adds a complication to many elements of daily life, but it is perfectly possible to reach and maintain good oral health while diabetic. Good oral hygiene habits like daily flossing, twice-daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush, and regular dental checkups are all essential. So is being careful with sugar intake!

The Dentist Can Help You Fight Diabetes!
Regular dental exams are essential for everyone, but especially for anyone with diabetes. The early signs of a dental problem aren’t always obvious to people who don’t work in the dental field. The sooner they can be caught by a dentist, the easier it will be to deal with them. Your physician can also work with your dentist towards the shared goal of managing your diabetes as well as your oral health. That’s why it’s so important to keep both of them in the loop!

Let’s fight for your good oral health together