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Could new technology solve the problem of sensitive teeth?

That first sip of hot coffee in the morning. That giant spoonful of your favorite ice cream. That bracing, deep breath of cool fall or winter air. These experiences should be pleasant, not painful.

But tooth sensitivity can put a damper on your enjoyment of almost any hot or cold treat. Tooth discomfort can be the result of many things: a cavity, a cracked or chipped tooth, a worn filling, enamel erosion, teeth-bleaching products, exposed roots or gum disease.

Your dentist is the best one to talk with you about the source of your sensitivity and possible solutions. But recent innovations in dental technology offer some interesting insights into what may lie ahead. Fascinating new solutions to an old problem could be just around the corner:

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    Blocking pain receptors. Researchers recently identified a protein in tooth cells that helps detect cold, possibly opening a path for new treatments for tooth sensitivity. The researchers found that mice without any of the protein in their teeth didn’t sense pain from cold materials in their mouths. The study’s insights suggest that new treatment options could block the cold-sensing protein to eliminate temperature-related sensitivity. Treatments that block the protein could perhaps one day be delivered through chewing gum or through strips that are applied to the teeth directly.

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    Controlling sensitivity through remineralization. “Remineralization” may sound like something a ray gun would do in a sci-fi movie. But it’s actually a simple process that occurs naturally inside your mouth every day, helping to repair lost enamel and to prevent cavities. The gradual wearing away of tooth enamel can leave the nerves inside the tooth more exposed, so anything that restores enamel is key to helping prevent tooth sensitivity. Researchers are currently seeking ways to give your mouth a boost as it restores lost enamel. The approach uses a painless electric current to drive minerals back into the teeth. One day the process could potentially treat tooth decay and sensitivity in-office without the need for more invasive or painful procedures.

The best way to prevent tooth sensitivity

Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing pain from sensitive teeth. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity. He or she may be able to recommend a simple treatment, such as a sensitivity-reducing toothpaste, or can recommend other treatments if more serious remedies are needed.