Cosmetic Dentistry Blog Cosmetic and General Dentistry Questions Answered

June 22, 2009

My tooth has a really sensitive spot at the gumline

Filed under: Teeth sensitivity — mesasmiles @ 10:18 pm

Dr. Hall,
Very recently for the past few weeks one of my teeth has grown rather sensitive. Not to cold or hot, but if I scrape it with my fingernail near the gum line it almost feels like touching a nerve. The funny thing is, eating, drinking, brushing and flossing are all painless; its only sensitive to pressure with something hard, like a toothpick or fingernail. I was wondering what this might be.

I see the dentist about 2-3 times a year, and they always tell me my teeth are extraordinarily clean. I’m just very paranoid about my teeth. I hate getting dental work, and I don’t want to find out it requires a painful procedure to get it fixed. Help!
– Brandon from Ontario

It’s important to pay attention whenever a tooth is sensitive for an extended period of time like yours is. Even if the cause isn’t serious, the constant irritation of your tooth isn’t good and can lead to nerve damage inside the tooth, requiring root canal treatment.

I’m encouraged to know that the tooth isn’t sensitive to heat or cold or anything other than touching it in this one spot. Teeth can have sensitive spots like this, and usually those spots can be sealed over with something to alleviate the sensitivity. It’s kind of like a tiny filling.

Teeth tend to flex a little bit right where the crown meets the root. A lot of dentists aren’t familiar with this phenomenon, and it was only recently that it was discovered. But the tooth flexes at this spot, and causes tiny particles of tooth structure to break off, sometimes causing a sensitive spot, and sometimes continuing to progress until a significant groove develops. The trouble with treating them is that dentists have a hard time getting fillings to stick in this location – they tend to pop out. The way to get fillings to stick in this position is to use a flexible filling material, like a microfill composite.

So ask your dentist to seal over this sensitive spot, and if there is enough room for a filling, to place a small amount of microfill over the spot, and I believe the sensitivity will go away.
– Dr. Hall

Related links:
Read more about teeth that are sensitive to touch.
Read about a toothpaste for sensitive teeth.

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About David A. Hall

Dr. David Hall was one of the first 40 accredited cosmetic dentists in the world. He practiced cosmetic dentistry in Iowa, and in 1990 earned his accreditation with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry. He is now president of Infinity Dental Web, a company in Mesa, Arizona that does complete Internet marketing for dentists.

1 Comment »

  1. I recently had a tooth surface near my gum line refilled because it had a dark stain behind it. The original filling was done because of receding gums, (wish I knew then about a periodontist) anyways, that filling never felt sensitive. The new surface filling had been sensitive only to my nail or something hard touching it, like nerve pain as described in the post above. Not sensitive to hot or cold, or biting down. I went back to my new dentist who did it and he has no idea. Could it be that the new filling is too thin? I see it is slightly concave.

    Response by Dr. Hall,
    I have seen this happen where one of these spots at the gumline gets sensitive only after the filling is done. My best guess as to what happened here is not that the filling is too thin–often these spots are simply coated with a bonding agent to relieve the sensitivity, and the bonding agent is extremely thin. No, what can happen is that in the process of either preparing the tooth or polishing the filling, the enamel or cementum of the tooth gets abraded or polished a little which opens up some tubules in the tooth, making it sensitive. Have your dentist coat the tooth root area where it is sensitive with a desensitizer, such as Gluma. Gluma is made specifically for these situations. If he doesn’t have anything like that, just a dentin bonding agent should help. Meanwhile, a toothpaste for sensitive teeth such as Sensodyne can help.

    Comment by Catherine — May 13, 2016 @ 3:12 pm

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