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Study Offers New Solution to Tooth SensitiviTEA

Written by Consumer Guide to Dentistry   Last modified on November 22, 2017

Do you have sensitive teeth? When you sip on a cup of hot coffee or an icy glass of lemonade, do you get a sharp flash of pain?

Tooth sensitivity is a common issue that most people experience at one time or another for various reasons. It may signal a serious oral health problem, such as nerve damage in the root canaltooth decay or gum recession. But more often than not it’s simply due to the natural wearing down of enamel, the mineralized outer layer of the tooth that protects it against acids and bacteria. As the enamel breaks down, it exposes the underlying dentin layer, which contains microscopic holes leading to nerve endings. If you have exposed dentin and take a sip of that hot cup of coffee, or ice-cold lemonade, the liquid will flow right through to the nerves, unleashing that flash of pain.

There are various methods for treating tooth sensitivity, including things like fluoride rinses (which help re-mineralize enamel) or toothpastes, using a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent the abrasive stripping of enamel, using an over-the-counter desensitizing agent, etc. These treatments offer varying levels of short-term success in combatting sensitivity. But there’s a new report out from the American Chemical Society (ACS) suggesting a potential breakthrough. And it involves green tea.

Green tea has long been linked with a range of health benefits thanks in part to its high concentration of antioxidants. Studies have linked it with helping to support weight loss, protect brain health, shield against various cancers and diabetes, and now — according to this new report — protect teeth against sensitivity and decay.

A proven method for combatting exposed dentin is by plugging the holes with a mineral called nanohydroxyapatite. The problem is that this mineral can break down almost as quickly as it is applied due to everyday events like teeth grinding, tooth brushing and acid erosion.  The nerve endings become immediately exposed again.

The ACS report indicates that by encapsulating nanohydroxyapatite with a particular green tea extract, the compound strengthens it to the point that it can withstand more rigorous wear and tear. This extract (EGCG) has previously proven beneficial in combatting tooth decay by preventing the formation of damaging biofilms. Biofilms collect bacteria and cause tooth decay. In the study, when the extract was combined with nanohydroxyapatite and applied to an extracted wisdom tooth, it was able to plug the dentin holes for 96 hours and withstand acid erosion and rigorous brushing, in addition to preventing biofilm formation. Researchers indicate that the green tea extract formulation could indeed be a major development in the fight against tooth sensitivity and associated decay.

More research is needed, but sufferers of sensitivity may soon be able to drink their hot and cold beverages of choice without fear of tooth pain. And we say ‘cheers’ to that!

If you’re interested in reading more about the research, check out the ACS release.