A cup of hot green tea can be both relaxing and refreshing, but for those with sensitive teeth it can be painful. Now, new research published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces suggests that an extract from the green tea itself could help treat that dental sensitivity.
Dentin Hypersensitivity: Why It Happens
The most common cause of tooth sensitivity, called dentin hypersensitivity in the dental community, is a breakdown of the enamel, said Dr. John Pappas, DDS, founder of Arcadia Dental Arts in Phoenix, Arizona.
“The enamel is the outermost layer of teeth and protects the next layer, the dentin, and the inside of the tooth, the pulp, which lie beneath,” Pappas said. “When the dentin loses its protection, sensations of hot and cold can travel through the tubules in the dentin and reach the nerves inside the tooth, causing pain.”
Pappas said sensitivity can be caused by many things including:
- Brushing too vigorously
- Eating and drinking acidic foods and drinks
- Receding gums, which can be a sign of gum disease
- Excessive plaque buildup
- Clenching or grinding the teeth, also called bruxism
- Chipped, cracked or fractured teeth
- Old fillings that have begun to decay
Tooth Sensitivity is a Common Problem
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, one in eight Americans suffer from sensitive teeth, and the condition is more common among young women, patients with receding gums and those who whiten teeth at home.
“The most common patients to report problems with tooth sensitivity are those between the ages of 20 and 40 and those over 70. Of course, patients of all ages may have dentin hypersensitivity for a number of different reasons,” Pappas said.
Green Tea and Tooth Sensitivity
Although enamel is the strongest substance in the human body, it does not contain cells that will allow it to regenerate. Once the enamel has been stripped from teeth, there’s no way to create more. A common treatment method to block the tubules in the dentin is by plugging them with a substance called nanohydroxypatite. It can be added to toothpastes, gels, mouthwashes and many other dental products. The problem with this material is that it is easily broken down with brushing, erosion, grinding and other normal mouth activities. This means the relief it provides not lasting long.
Scientists from Wuhan University in China found a way to combine nanohydroxypatite with a green tea polyphenol, EGCG, in a way that can stand up to the normal wear and tear of tooth care along with the acids that come from the foods and drinks we consume daily. The green tea extract, EGCG, has been studied previously and has shown success at fighting the bacteria that causes biofilms on teeth that in turn cause cavities. The ECGC was tested on extracted wisdom teeth, and data showed that it was successful in standing up to brushing and erosion, something nonohydroxypatite had not always done in the past. In addition, the EGCG was released for no less than 96 hours and was successful at preventing the formation of biofilm. Researchers believe this material has the potential to work for treating tooth sensitivity, as well as cavity prevention.