Tooth Sensitivity Causes and Treatments

It’s no fun to be take a sip of a cold drink and OUCH! You feel pain in your teeth. This happens when you experience tooth sensitivity, which can be caused by many things. The good news is, there are ways you and your dentist can treat it. toothsensitivity

What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a common name for hypersensitivity in the layer of the tooth that protects the nerve (called the dentin) or sensitivity of the part of the tooth that is embedded in the bone (the root). It occurs when these dentin or root areas become exposed because of receding gums or gum disease. Tooth sensitivity is very common, and it can come and go over time.

When you experience tooth sensitivity, you may experience pain with hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

The crowns of your teeth are covered with a hard layer of enamel, the hardest and most mineralized substance in the body, which covers the layer of dentin underneath. However, a special, softer substance called cementum covers the root of a tooth. If that area is exposed and the cementum is worn away, it leaves the dentin of the root exposed, which can be painful because of the thousands of tiny channels that run from the surface and through the dentin to the nerve center of the tooth.

There are many things that can cause the enamel or cementum to wear away and the dentin to become exposed, including:

  • Brushing teeth too vigorously
  • Using a very abrasive toothpaste, typically those that are considered tooth-whitening
  • A highly acidic diet (soda, citrus fruit, pickles)
  • Eating disorders such as bulimia and digestive diseases such as GERD
  • Bruxism (tooth grinding)
  • Receding gums due to age or poor oral hygiene
  • An excessive build-up of plaque that causes enamel to wear away
  • Chipped or cracked teeth
  • Decay around fillings

Treating Tooth Sensitivity

The most important thing is alert your Enlighten Dental Care dentist or hygienist about tooth sensitivity, so that the cause of your pain can be determined. Based on that assessment, you may receive the following recommendations for treatment.

  • Use a desensitizing toothpaste.
  • Decrease your intake of acidic foods and drinks
  • Improve dental hygiene with better brushing and daily flossing, while avoiding brushing too vigorously.
  • A dental mouth guard for teeth grinding.
  • Have fluoride applied to the sensitive areas to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain.
  • Treatment of exposed root surfaces by applying a bonding resin.
  • A surgical gum graft if the tooth root has lost gum tissue.

If other treatment has not worked and you are in severe pain, a root canal may be the best, most effective option for treating the sensitivity. For more information and to set up an appointment, contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

Message for Teens during National Children’s Dental Health Month

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, and it’s quite likely you have heard stories and read articles about such things as “baby bottle decay,” teaching your toddler how to brush properly, and when to set up your child’s first dental appointment (by age 1 or within six months of when the first tooth comes in).

But what about helping teens take care of their dental health? Many parents assume that by the time their children become teenagers, worrying about tooth decay is the least of their problems. However, it is during this time of a child’s life that some of the worst atrocities are committed toward their teeth! 2015_Teen_English_Poster_8.5x11.ashx

  • Poor diet. Adolescence is the time when kids’ meals are not heavily monitored by parents, thus the consumption of soft drinks, candy and high-carbohydrate foods tends to increase. This combination is bad for teens’ teeth and for their bones. Phosphoric acid and citric acid erode tooth enamel, which is the main barrier that our teeth have against decay. Too much sugar — combined with a susceptible tooth, bacteria growth and poor saliva output  — creates an environment that is ripe for a cavity to develop.
  • Smoking and smokeless tobacco. Teens and adolescents are likely to explore some of these behaviors and possibly get addicted to them. Make sure you are explaining to them all of the dangers, including those to a teen’s teeth. Smoking can contribute to bad breath, stained teeth, loss of teeth and jawbone, loss of taste, gum recession, oral cancer and mouth sores. Chewing tobacco and other smokeless tobaccos such as snus, snuff and dip can cause oral cancer, make individuals more susceptible to tooth decay due to the high sugar content, and irritate the gums, leading to gum disease.
  • Vaping and electronic cigarettes. The use of e-cigarettes is growing among teens, and as of now, there are very few studies on the use of e-cigarettes and oral health. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes for Health, has proposed more research in order to fill the gap and better inform consumers, professionals and regulators about the effects of e-cigarette aerosol mixtures on the mouth, gums and the rest of the oral cavity.
  • Oral piercing. Like tattooing, piercing is one of today’s forms of body-art and self-expression among teens. Piercing the tongue, lips, cheeks or uvula (the tiny tissue that hangs at the back of the throat) is not as safe as some believe. The mouth’s moist environment is home to huge amounts of breeding bacteria and is an ideal place for infection. An oral piercing can interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing, and it may also cause: excessive drooling; infection, pain and swelling; chipped or cracked teeth; injuries to the gums; damage to fillings; increased saliva flow; hypersensitivity to metals; scar tissue; and nerve damage.
  • Eating Disorders. Anorexia and bulimia can be devastating to oral health and overall health. If a teen is not getting proper nutrition, gums and other soft tissue inside the mouth may bleed easily, and the teen may experience chronic dry mouth. If a teen is throwing up often, strong stomach acid repeatedly flows over teeth and can cause a loss of enamel that makes teeth change in color, shape and length, and they can break off easily.

Talk to your teen about these issues and, if needed, seek counseling. Oral health is often a window to an individual’s overall health, so if you notice changes in oral health, make sure you talk to your dentist and other health care practitioners.

Easing Your Dentist Fears in Winston-Salem, N.C.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we certainly don’t think of ourselves as scary, but we know that between 5-8 percent of Americans do avoid the dentist because of true dental anxiety, while others just simply don’t like to go.

The fear of going to the dentist often stems from patients feeling as if they have a lack of control. However, regular dental check-ups are essential, just like regular health check-ups. Lost teeth and pain are just some of the consequences of going without regular check-ups; gum disease that can lead to other even more serious health issues is another.

To help put dental fear in perspective and highlight our gentle, patient approach to treating each patient as an individual, we enlisted the help of a videographer Patterson Tompkins at ScreenSpyn, as well as a few actors and Enlighten Dental Care staff members to join in the fun. Our cast list included:

  • “JJ” Johnson as Jordan Moore
  • Dr. Dan Driscoll as himself
  • Victoria Blevins as the nice assistant
  • Mita Lambe and Allison Lambe as waiting room guests
  • Mary Jane Miller as the scary receptionist

We had so much fun shooting and editing the video to get the essential message across that Enlighten Dental Care is not here to add more anxiety to your life. We view our patients as our friends, and we don’t dictate treatment — you are in control. There are multiple treatment options available, and our team is here to find the right one for you!

Stay tuned for more videos from Enlighten Dental Care!

E-Cigarettes and Oral Health — What Do We Know?

The effects of smoking tobacco and smokeless tobacco on oral health are well known and include bad breath, tooth discoloration, increased risk of oral cancer, and increased risk of gum disease and bone loss within the jaw.

But we don’t know much about a new, growing trend in smoking — e-cigarettes. And it’s worrisome, particularly because their use is increasing among teenagers. In fact, a new federal study found that e-cigarette use among teens has surpassed the use of traditional cigarettes. A survey found that 17 percent of 12th graders reported using an e-cigarette during the last month, compared with 13.6 percent who reported having a traditional cigarette.advanced vaping device, e-cigarette on table

What are e-cigarettes?

E-cigarettes are basically electronic nicotine delivery systems. The cartridge contains nicotine, propylene glycol and a battery. When you inhale, the atomizer is heated and vaporizes the liquid as it is brought through the mouthpiece. The nicotine cartridges come in a variety of flavors — cherry, vanilla, etc. — which, of course, makes this more appealing to young people.

Are e-cigarettes safer than smoking conventional cigarettes?

Evidence suggests that the levels of dangerous chemicals e-cigarettes give off are less than with conventional cigarettes. However, the Food and Drug Administration has questioned their safety. Essentially, they have not been in existence long enough for long-term effects to be well known.

What are the effects of e-cigarettes on oral health?

There have been very few studies on the effects of e-cigarettes on oral health; however, one study in 2011 did find some adverse oral effects on subjects who had smoked e-cigarettes for four weeks:

  • Six percent of patients reported mouth irritation
  • Eight percent noted sore throat and dry mouth
  • Nine percent reported mouth ulcers.

After 8 weeks of use, 8 percent reported a dry cough, and after 24 weeks, 8 percent complained of throat irritation and 7 percent had dry mouth.

Overall, the incidence of adverse oral effects was small, but it appears that ENDS use does exert negative effects on the oral cavity. The effect of ENDS on periodontal diseases and healing has not been researched. More study is needed in order to identify the long-term effects of ENDS on the environment, the body, and the oral cavity.

Essentially, not a lot is known about e-cigarettes, and there is more research to be done. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the National Institutes for Health, has proposed more research in order to fill the gap and better inform consumers, professionals and regulators about the effects of e-cigarette aerosol mixtures on the mouth, gums and the rest of the oral cavity.

If you smoke e-cigarettes or conventional cigarettes, or use smokeless tobacco regularly, please inform your dental health professional at Enlighten Dental Care and let us know of any side effects you may be experiencing.




Giving Back and Being Thankful — N.C. Missions of Mercy (NC MOM)

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping
a present and not giving it. “ William Ward

 Posted By Dr. Dan DriscollNC MOM

On November 14 Dawn Grider, RDH; Mary Jane Miller, patient care coordinator; and I volunteered at the free dental clinic sponsored by the North Carolina Missions of Mercy (NC MOM), an outreach program of the N.C. Dental Society.

The dental clinic is a grassroots effort to serve people who can’t afford dental care with volunteer dentists and dental hygienists from across the state. This was the first year the program served people in Winston-Salem, and approximately 1,000 people came out for dental cleanings, extractions, fillings and more.

There are millions of Americans with no access or limited access to dental care. According to the 2012 report “Dental Crisis in America — The Need to Expand Access,” more than 47 million people live in places where it is difficult to access dental care, and about 17 million low income children received no dental care in 2009. Cavities are the most common chronic disease of childhood, affecting almost 60 percent of children ages 5 to 17. And in 2009, there were more than 830,000 visits to emergency rooms across the country for preventable dental conditions in 2009.

Volunteering at the NCMOM free dental clinic is just one small way in which to give back to our local community and help those in need of dental care to obtain it. It is a way for us to express gratitude for all that we have been given by providing services to those who cannot afford them. One of the coolest aspects of volunteering with this organization was the camaraderie we felt with 80 other providers working equally as hard. Many hands truly does make light work — even when the work is not light at all! Because of the acute nature of many patients’ pain, as well as the dental neglect over time, the dentistry is much more difficult in this situation compared to a day in private practice. Thus, it was truly invigorating and inspiring to be doing volunteering with so many other people who were there to give back to our community, and it made the task much more manageable.

The NC MOM program is dependent on funding from charitable organizations, civic organizations, private corporations, personal donations and grants given to the NC Dental Health Fund, a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt organization. For information on how to make a tax deductible gift, click here.



Five Facts You Need to Know about Sugar and Your Teeth

Just in time for Halloween and the holidays, here are five important things you need to know about sugar and your teeth.CandyMedium

  1. Sugar is in a lot of things. When thinking about sugar, we most commonly think of “sucrose,” the white table sugar that comes from sugar beets and sugar cane. But basically, anything with “ose” on the end is sugar: fructose (found in fruit and honey), galactose (milk and dairy products), glucose (honey, fruits and vegetables), lactose (milk), maltose (barley), etc. Look for these on product labels.
  2. Sugar is a carbohydrate. Foods that contain carbohydrates (starches and sugars) are the troublemakers that can cause cavities. When the natural bacteria in your mouth is exposed to carbohydrates, it produces acids, which can erode the enamel on the teeth.
  3. There are degrees of good and bad with fruit. You need to eat fruit as part of a balanced diet, but it does contain sugar that can damage your teeth. Fresh fruit is absolutely the best; it is filled with fiber, which can stimulate saliva production to wash away bacteria. Fresh is followed by frozen and canned if they don’t have any added sugars. Fruit juice is one of the things that often causes cavities in young children, and intake of this should be limited. Cooking fruit (as you do for pies, jellies and jams) releases the intrinsic sugars in the fruit, and there is often added sugar in these treats. Dried fruit may be the worst for your teeth because it is sticky, and it often has added sugar and the sugar, which is very concentrated because the water is removed.
  4. Go ahead and gorge on the sugar rather than doling it out over time.  Eating a bunch of chocolate bars Halloween night is not so bad because the chocolate is pretty easy to wash away with saliva, water and brushing. Other candies, such as taffy, caramel, gummies, hard candies that take a long time to dissolve and, of course, the pure sugar candies such as Fun Dip, can be more problematic because they tend to hang around the teeth longer. But even more importantly, it’s better to indulge in one sitting than bathe your teeth in enamel-corroding acid every single day until the candy runs out.  Want to know which candies are the worst for your teeth? Click here!
  5. What’s even worse than candy? Chips! Science has found that cooked carbohydrates such as chips and pretzels are even worse for your teeth than candy. These starchy foods have high sugar content and cling to your teeth longer, giving those bacteria even more reason to party and cause problems.

Questions about what you can do to make Halloween and other holidays healthier for you and your family. Set up an appointment at Enlighten Dental Care by calling (336) 765-0904.

Why Gums Recede and How Your Winston-Salem Dentist Can Help

Have you noticed increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold? Or when you look in the mirror, does one tooth look longer than the others?

These are signs of gum recession, a very common dental problem that often occurs gradually with few or no symptoms. It is more common as people age, affecting up to 75 percent of people over age 60.

What Are Receding Gums?

Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away or pulls back to expose more of the tooth or the tooth’s root. It is also one of the first signs of gum disease and may be called “gingival recession.”

What Causes Receding Gums?

There are many reasons why your gums may recede.

  • Gum disease caused by inadequate brushing and flossing. Bacteria builds up between the teeth and in the gum line causing chronic inflammation and a gradual loss of gum tissue.
  • Brushing too hard. Ironically, brushing too aggressively or brushing the wrong way is another cause of gum recession. [Check out how to properly brush your teeth.]
  • Genetics. Some of the population is genetically predisposed to thin, fragile gum tissue that can predispose them to gum disease and recession.
  • Hormones. Female hormone fluctuations can make gums more sensitive and vulnerable to gum recession.
  • Smoking or using smokeless tobacco products.
  • Grinding your teeth (bruxism), crooked teeth or misaligned bite.  Too much force can be placed on the teeth, gums and bone, which can cause the gums to recede.
  • Lip or tongue piercing. The gum tissue can become irritated and wear away.

Do Not Ignore Gum Recession

Gum recession is not a condition you can ignore. “Pockets” or gaps can form between the gum line and the teeth, which leaves plenty of room for the build-up of disease-causing bacteria. Left untreated, these bacteria can severely damage the bone structure and supporting tissue, which can cause the tooth or teeth to fall out.

 Treating Gum Recession

The type of treatment for gum recession depends on how severe the problem is.

  • Tooth scaling and root planning. If your case of receding gums is mild, it may be treated with a deep cleaning of the affected area by dental professionals. During this process, the plaque and tartar that have built up on the teeth and root surfaces below the gum line is carefully removed. Then, the exposed root area is smoothed to make it more difficult for bacteria to attach. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to get rid of any remaining harmful bacteria.
  • Pocket depth reduction. With this procedure, the dentist or periodontist gently pulls back the affected gum tissue, removes the bacteria and tartar from the pockets, and then secures the gum tissue in place over the tooth root. This may take place under local or general anesthetic.
  • Regeneration. This is a procedure to regenerate lost bone and tissue if the bone supporting your teeth has been destroyed. After a pocket depth reduction, a regenerative material is applied to encourage your body to naturally regenerate bone and tissue in that area.
  • Soft tissue graft. There are typically three different types of grafts, and you dentist will determine which kind is best for your specific needs.

If you notice your gums receding or have any tooth sensitivity, contact Enlighten Dental Care today at (336) 765-0904.

Wisdom Teeth — What Are They and Why Would I Need Them Removed?

Molars are the teeth found in the back of your jaw that help you chew, and humans typically have three sets of them for a total of 12 teeth, six on each side of the jaw. The three types are First Molars, often called the six-year molars; the Second Molars, often called the 12-year molars; and the Third Molars, known as the wisdom teeth, as they generally erupt between the ages of 17 and 21 after you’ve gained some “wisdom.”

(We’re not sure if these are years of “wisdom” per se, but that’s what the teeth are called.)

As wisdom teeth come in, they often cause problems that can affect other teeth. Some of these problems include:

  • The wisdom teeth are impacted (unable to break through the gums) because the jaw isn’t large enough to give them room.
  • The wisdom teeth only break through the gum partially because there is not enough space. Gum tissue can grow over the wisdom tooth and trap food to cause a gum infection.
  • The wisdom teeth face the wrong direction or come in crooked.
  • The wisdom teeth are so crowded or far back in the mouth that it is difficult to clean around them.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we keep a check on wisdom teeth through dental X-rays and monitor to see if they are causing any problems such as teeth crowding, pain or infection. Wisdom teeth that are causing problems need to be removed.

Wisdom teeth that have fully erupted through the gums can be removed with a non-surgical dental extraction in our office. The teeth and surrounding tissue are numbed with a local anesthetic, and you may choose to have a sedative to help control anxiety.

Wisdom teeth that are impacted underneath the gum and embedded in the jawbone require a surgical extraction and will require an oral surgeon. The surgeon makes an incision into the gums and then removes the portion of bone that lies over the tooth.

After a wisdom tooth is extracted, patients can sometimes develop a dry socket, which is a painful condition that occurs if the blood clot that was protecting the bone and nerves in the hole where the tooth was pulled become dislodged. Only 2 percent to 5 percent of people develop dry socket.

Dry socket is easily treatable with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or stronger pain medications. If you are experiencing dry socket, we will clean the tooth socket and fill it with a medicine to promote healing. You may also rinse your mouth with saltwater or a special mouthwash each day, and antibiotics may also be prescribed.

Questions about wisdom teeth? Call Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

Sports Drinks and Your Teeth

During the hot weather of summer, the energy drinks and sports drinks come out, particularly among youth athletes. The drinks market their benefits as helping athletes to replace water, electrolytes and energy after training or competition.

Many people believe that these drinks are healthier than soda. Their effectiveness, however, has been questioned, and the drinks are also linked to weight gain.

Another problem sports drinks and energy drinks have been linked to is damaging teeth. The culprit is the acid — a problem in sodas too. A study published a few years ago in the journal General Dentistry found that energy and sports drinks contain so much acid that they start eroding teeth after only five days of consistent use, leaving the teeth more susceptible to decay and sensitivity.

The researchers tested 13 different sports drinks and nine different energy drinks for titratable acidity, pH and fluoride of each of the different drinks. Then they submerged samples of human tooth enamel in six drinks and found both types caused damage, with the energy drinks causing twice as much damage as the sports drinks.

There is a double whammy. Not only are the drinks highly acidic, but the sugar from the energy and sports drinks becomes food for bacteria in your mouth, which generates more teeth-damaging acid.

Now, of course, drinking the drinks is different than submerging your teeth in them for 15 minutes. And there are a few ways you can mitigate the potential for damage:

  • Drink water along with your sports or energy drink. This will help wash away the acid covering your teeth and increase saliva production to help protect your enamel.
  • Don’t brush your teeth immediately after consuming the drinks, because the drinks have softened your enamel. Wait one hour and make sure you don’t over brush.
  •  Drink your drink through a straw. This reduces the contact of the drink with your teeth.
  • Just drink water. Sports drinks are expensive and contain a lot of calories and acid you don’t need. Water is always better.

Do you have questions about damage to your teeth? Contact Enlighten Dental Care at 336.765.0904 or send an e-mail to:

Cavity Fillings — What Type Is Best?

Cavities (tooth decay) are permanently damaged areas of the surface of your teeth that have created tiny holes. If cavities are left untreated, they will grow larger and affect the deeper layers of your teeth, leading to much bigger problems, such as infections, severe toothache and tooth loss.

Cavities that have progressed beyond the earliest enamel-erosion state are treated by removing the decayed portion of the tooth and then “filling” the area where the decayed portion was removed. The “filling” cam be made of one of the following:

  • Resin-based composite, which is tooth-colored, plastic, and glass materials
  • Silver amalgam, which consists of mercury mixed with silver, tin, zinc, and copper
  • Porcelain
  • Gold

At Enlighten Dental Care, to treat the typical cavity, we use composite resin fillings; however, there are some instances in which silver amalgam is the better choice. Gold may also be used when bite forces dictate a stronger, more supportive restoration than a filling, but there is ample healthy tooth to preserve without doing a crown. And as stronger porcelains have become available, they may also be used for this purpose.

Resin-based composite is a natural, tooth-colored material that was used for many years to fill front teeth and is much more aesthetically pleasing. Over the last few decades, with technological advances, the material has been made strong enough to withstand the pressure of chewing in the back teeth; however, it is still less durable than silver amalgam. Resin-based composite has the added benefit of bonding to the tooth structure, which provides further support.

Silver amalgam has been used for more than 150 years to fill teeth and is strong and durable. There have been concerns over the safety of amalgam because of the use of mercury as a bonding agent.; however, no scientific studies have shown that it is a risk. In addition, the American Dental Association maintains that dental amalgam remains a safe, affordable and durable cavity filling choice for dental patients. While silver amalgam is less expensive than composite resin fillings, it can cause the tooth to crack and fracture over time.

When treating our patients’ cavities, we consider the pattern of decay in the tooth before recommending which type of filling material to use. It is extremely important to end up with a tight seal to prevent leaving any space that opens the door to further decay. Other considerations include the patient’s budget and insurance coverage. If you have questions about which material is right for your treatment, we are always happy to talk with you about the pros and cons of the materials, as well as the cost. Please call us at (336) 765-0904.