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Desensitizing Medications

Desensitizing medication

Tooth desensitizing medication for dentin hypersensitivity

What are Desensitizing Medications?

Desensitizing medications are applied by dentists and seal the exposed microscopic pores in the dentin layer of teeth that cause sensitivity.

Desensitizing medications are applied to sensitive teeth by the dentist. It is dispensed from a small bottle and applied with a fine brush.

If a patient is experiencing more than a mild sensitivity to temperature extremes or sweets, and the dentist has ruled out pulpitis (inflamed tooth pulp), tooth decay (caries), infection, or gum disease as a cause, desensitizing medications may be used to seal the microscopic pores of exposed root surfaces.

Desensitizing medications are also frequently used on freshly cut dentin during restorative dental procedures (for example fillings or crowns) before the restoration is placed on the tooth to help prevent later tooth sensitivity. The patient’s tooth is typically numb for such procedures.

The process of applying Desensitizing Medications

Applying desensitizing medication to teeth that have hypersensitive dentin.

Applying desensitizing medication to exposed dentin on a study skull to illustrate the technique.

  • Your dentist will review your health history, and may ask questions about your dental history—tooth whitening, use of multi-care toothpastes, etc. These can cause sensitivity, and the dentist may recommend modifying or discontinuing their use to eliminate the underlying cause(s) of your sensitivity.
  • The dentist will perform diagnostic tests to rule out more serious conditions, like pulpitis, tooth decay (caries), gum disease, and infection (abscess). The tests will generally include an objective evaluation of your reaction to hot, cold and mild electrical stimuli. This is known as “vital testing”. The test is performed to see whether the nerve tissue in the tooth pulp is living (vital), and expected to remain living (viable).
  • One or more dental X-rays (radiographs) will often be exposed to look for changes in the hard tissues. Tooth decay (caries) and bone changes from infection will appear dark on an X-ray.
  • If the dentists determines that you are an appropriate candidate for desensitizing medication, he or she may administer local anesthetic to numb the affected tooth/teeth. Many people do not require the tooth to be numb for the procedure, and can tell the medication is working immediately, during the application process.
  • The tooth will be isolated to protect the soft tissue (i.e. gums, lips, tongue, cheeks). Your eyes should be protected—some dentists may simply ask you to close your eyes while the medication is applied.
  • Desensitizing medication is applied to the tooth with a small brush, and air dried. Several coats may be applied:
  • The area will be thoroughly rinsed with water.
  • The isolation device(s) will be removed.
  • Sometimes multiple applications are necessary to provide complete relief of symptoms.
  • Your dentist may prescribe the use of a supplementary desensitizing toothpaste, following the application of desensitizing medications.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on December 13, 2018.

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