Green tea extract shows promise in preventing tooth sensitivity, according to a study headed by researchers at the American Chemical Society and Wuhan University.
The study details the benefits of green tea in protecting teeth from enamel erosion, the primary cause of tooth sensitivity.
The Cause of Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity develops when the hard, protective enamel on the teeth wear away, leaving the sensitive underlying layer of dentin exposed. Acid erosion is the most common cause of tooth enamel damage.
Tooth grinding and improper toothbrushing also wear down the enamel, causing tooth sensitivity.
The dentin houses tiny, hollow tubes that touch the nerves located in dental pulp, the layer of the tooth just below the dentin. When a patient with exposed dentin comes in contact with a stimulus like a very hot or very cold food or drink, the stimulus touches the exposed nerve and causes a sharp, painful reaction.
Dentists typically treat tooth sensitivity by placing the mineral nanohydroxyapatite into the tubes to block them from responding to triggers. Although nanohydroxyapatite does block the dentin from responding, the mineral wears away over time because of chewing, brushing and tooth grinding.
Acid created by bacteria in the mouth also erodes the nanohydroxyapatite, leaving the teeth once again susceptible to pain and tooth decay.
Tackling the Problem of Tooth Sensitivity
Researchers on the study wanted to develop a permanent solution for the problem of tooth sensitivity that could withstand natural wear and tear, toothbrushing and acid erosion.
They combined the nanohydroxyapatite with the green tea extract polphyenol EGCG. The EGCG of green tea was selected because of its ability to fight Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria responsible for tooth decay. Silica nanoparticles were added to reinforce the mixture before it was placed into the dentin tubes of extracted wisdom teeth.
Researchers observed the test teeth and noted that the mixture not only withstood wear and tear, but it also released the green tea polyphenol EGCG for 96 hours or more.
Topeka, Kansas, dentist Dr. Stefania Caracioni, D.D.S., L.V.I.F, is excited about the potential the study has for treating tooth sensitivity.
“Tooth sensitivity is a very common and very painful dental problem,” Caracioni said.
According to the Journal of American Dentistry, one in eight adults experience tooth sensitivity.
For most people with tooth sensitivity, symptoms begin as a sudden, sharp pain when eating hot or cold food and beverages.
“If left untreated, patients may experience pain more frequently, making eating, drinking and even brushing the teeth difficult,” Caracioni said.
People with sensitive teeth are also more prone to developing cavities.
The damage does not stop at the dentin, as acid and bacteria can reach the pulp of the tooth, causing pain, inflammation and infection.
“When the enamel is compromised, acid caused by bacteria now has a gateway to the rest of the tooth. If green tea extract can help stop the acid, pain and risk of further damage can be reduced,” Caracioni said.
Today’s Treatment for Tooth Sensitivity
People with tooth sensitivity do not have to wait until the research on green tea is perfected to find treatment for their tooth sensitivity. In addition to using nanohydroxyapatite, other treatments for sensitive teeth include fluoride treatments or rinses to strengthen and remineralize the teeth against acid erosion.
Desensitizing agents can be applied to the teeth to help reduce tooth sensitivity by blocking nerves from responding to triggers. Some over-the-counter toothpastes contain similar desensitizing agents.
Patients with severe tooth sensitivity can also choose to have their teeth bonded with a resin coating to prevent painful exposure and further decay.
The ACS study was published in the organization’s journal, ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.
Medical News Today. Could a green tea extract help to treat tooth sensitivity? Medical News Today. 6 August 2017.