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Wear Sunglasses? You May Have Sensitive Teeth


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


A study that appears in the November/December 2002 issue of General Dentistry, the clinical, peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), confirms that people with sensitivities of sight, hearing, taste, smell or 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 being that all patients expressed a need to wear sunglasses when outdoors, helping to confirm this connection.


Tooth sensitivity is caused by the movement of fluid 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 40 million Americans 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 specially formulated toothpaste for sensitive teeth and drinking tea that has tannic acid to temporarily reduce pain," suggests Dr. Bitter.


The tannic acid in tea clogs the material in the exposed 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.


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


Reviewed: January 2012