Does your toothpaste work on sensitivity?

Last Updated 13 September 2013, 16:08 IST

Tooth sensitivity is quite a common ailment that needs treating its causes rather than its symptoms, writes Dr Lakshmi Vishwanat.

A recent study states that two in every five people of the urban population suffer from tooth sensitivity. Are you one of them? If you are, then you know what a debilitating effect it can have on your life.

The tooth has three layers – the enamel, dentine and the pulp. The enamel is the first layer. Under the enamel, is the dentine which covers the pulp and is made up of tubules and nerve endings. Sometimes, recession of gums, tooth wear or tooth decay causes the dentine to get exposed. When dentine is exposed to cold or hot food, air pressure or forces of mastication, it can trigger sensitivity which ranges from a slight irritation to intense pain and discomfort.

One of the relatively new treatments for tooth sensitivity is the Novamin technology. One of the co-founders of Novamin technology, Leonard J Litkowski, a practicing dentist in Maryland was in Bangalore recently. He explains what this material is all about, “The material used in this technology falls into the category of bio-active glasses. Bio-active means that when the material is implanted into a person, instead of being rejected, the material helps the body enhance the repair process.”

In dentistry, the material was used in cases of trauma to the head and neck region, in periodontal lesions, or as a pulp capping agent. It is not only used in dentistry but also in other branches of medicine, to repair bones in case of bony defects, crush injuries, etc.
Irrespective of its use, the consistent quality of this material was that, when it is implanted in a bony or soft tissue environment, it induces the bone to form more bone without causing a harmful inflammatory response.

“While working on this material in the 1990s it is these characteristics that drew our attention. The size of the defects was variable and the size of the particles of the material was altered accordingly. The dental tubule was thought of as a defect, and particles were ground down to smaller particles to suit the size of the tubule. These particles were used over dentine and tested for the dentinal response,” elucidates Dr Leonard.

The mouth is not a protected environment, and contains saliva, several bacteria and food particles. The research team was curious to know if the material will be able to work effectively even in this environment.

On further probing, they were able to successfully identify that the material can bind to exposed dentine in the oral environment and can re-precipitate calcium and phosphate and can eventually form tooth-like material (hydroxyapatite) that can coat the dentine and successfully treat dentine hypersensitivity. The invention received a patent in the year 1998. It was bought by a leading global healthcare company and incorporated into a toothpaste.

Building the formulation for the toothpaste was a challenge faced by the company as the material reacts with water. The company had to find a formulation without water, the product had to be acceptable to the consumer, and one that functions like any other toothpaste.

The next challenge was to determine if, with the consumer brushing for approximately 60 seconds, would the product work in the same manner as scientifically desired? It has now been proven that with the prescribed usage of two times a day, for two weeks, a tooth-like hydroxyapatite layer is formed over exposed dentine, which is harder than dentine, resistant to brushing and acid attack by food particles. So in some ways, the company has successfully been able to meet the challenge and come up with a toothpaste that claims to put an end to your tooth sensitivity woes.

However, sensitivity is a symptom of an underlying problem. Finding out the cause for the sensitivity and treating that cause, rather than just treating the symptom, is of utmost importance. Products like these can provide relief only till your dentist finds out the root cause for the sensitivity.

Will this innovative new technology be able to put an end to tooth sensitivity and make peoples smiles look even healthier? Guess there’s only one way to tell!

(The writer is a dentist)

(Published 13 September 2013, 16:08 IST)

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