One of the most common complaints dentists hear from their patients is tooth sensitivity. According to some estimates, some 40 million adults have experienced this discomfort and sometimes severe pain associated with this problem.
Tooth sensitivity can be described as a sharp, usually short lived pain although the tooth may ache for some time afterward. Sensitivity is usually triggered by eating or drinking something that can either hot or cold. Brushing your teeth can also bring on the pain of a sensitive tooth.
The sensitivity is the result of the movement of fluids within the tooth’s dentin. This is the layer of tissue between the hard enamel surface of the tooth and the pulpy interior and is filled with tiny tubes that contain the fluids. When these tubes are irritated, they aggravate the nerve endings and cause the pain we call sensitivity. The tubes can become exposed as a result of the enamel being worn down, excessive consumption of acidy foods like soft drinks and citrus juices. There is also evidence to support acid reflux (GURD) as being an agent in causing tooth sensitivity.
NSAIDs are a class of analgesics such as ibuprofen, aspirin, naproxen, and ketoprofen. Not only are these analgesics effective at reducing pain but are also an anti-inflammatory drug. Inflammation is a natural response by the human body to help repair damage to cells. If is often felt as soreness, swellness, heat, loss of use and can be seen as redness. NSAIDs work by interfering with certain enzymes in the body. For example, ibuprofen stops the enzymes cyclo-oxygenase from releasing a chemical called prostaglandin which among other functions is involved with inflammation and pain.
NSAIDs are generally very safe drugs when used as directed. They should not be used more than a couple of times a week, or in excess of the recommended dosage or there may be an increased risk of other medical problems. Other risks associated with NSAIDs include increased bleeding, upset stomach, and nausea.
The efficacy of NSAIDs overall is quite good and are widely recognized as a safe and effective pain management drugs in both the dental and medical fields. One study found that ibuprofen was generally more effective at relieving general dental pain than acetaminophen or aspirin.
In a study reported in the Journal of the American Dental Association, researchers looked at NSAIDs as a preventative measure against tooth sensitivity caused by the cosmetic procedure to whiten teeth called bleaching. This study was actually a compilation of three separate studies that sought to answer the question of whether ibuprofen would help prevent the pain of tooth sensitivity. The conclusion of the researchers was that the evidence was inconclusive, but this only looked at preventing pain from occurring, not for the relief of pain once it occurred.
To relieve the pain and discomfort from sensitive teeth, NSAIDs can be used according to the label directions. Other things to try would be to switch to a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. You should make an appointment to see your dental professional if the sensitivity is severe or lasts for several days.