If you usually wince when you sip a chilled drink or take that first bite of ice cream, chances are, youâ€™ve got sensitive teeth.
According to a report in the journalÂ ACS Applied Materials & Interface, researchers in China may have discovered a better way to takeÂ the sting out of sensitive teeth using an extract from green tea â€” and it may prevent cavities to boot.
â€œSensitivity occursÂ when the teeth enamel gets thinner, exposing the underlying surface, the dentin,â€ Wenyuan Shi, professor and chair of oral biology at UCLA School of Dentistry, who was not involved in the study, tells Yahoo Beauty.
Dentin contains microscopic hollow tubes, or canals, but without the protection of enamel â€” think of enamelÂ like a cap on a tube. Those exposed tubes make it easier for cold (and heat) to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth, according to theAmerican Dental Association (ADA).
Shi adds, â€œThe stimulation of cells within these tubesÂ causesÂ a short, sharpÂ painÂ when the area is exposed toÂ hotÂ orÂ coldÂ temperatures through food and beverages â€” or even by the air.â€
There are several culprits behind sensitive teeth, from worn tooth enamel and an exposed tooth root to tooth decay (aka cavities) and gum disease, the ADA warns.
The standard treatment for sensitive teeth includes brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste, or some dentists recommend a fluoride gel â€” an in-office technique that strengthens tooth enamelÂ to reduce sensitivity â€” according to the ADA.
In some cases, a crown, inlay, or bonding may be used to shield the tooth and ease sensitivity. In the study, the researchers noted that aÂ mineral called nanohydroxyapatite can be used to fill up those tiny tubes in the dentin,Â ScienceDailyÂ reports. The problem is that the seal can wear out over time thanks to acid produced by cavity-causing bacteria, tooth erosion, and everyday brushing. Because of these factors, researchers set out to find a way to bolster the seal. They found that encapsulating the mineral withÂ a green tea polyphenol in silica nanoparticles helps it stand up to acid and everyday wear and tear.
Although more tests areÂ needed, the study found that using the new combination on the dentin surface â€œwas capable of effectively occluding dentinal tubules, reducing dentin permeability, and achieving favorable acid- and abrasion-resistant stability.â€
The researchers also noted that the green tea polyphenol has been shown in previous studies to fightÂ Streptococcus mutans, a bacteria that forms biofilms that can cause cavities.Â In the study, the researchers found the green tea extract has the capability to â€œsignificantly inhibit the formation and growth ofÂ S. mutansÂ biofilm on the dentin surface,â€ meaning it might be a good candidate for fighting off tooth decay as well.
But before you pour yourself a cup of green tea, Shi has some doubts as to how effective this new potential treatment is. â€œThe validated treatment is to numb the teeth nerve or make the enamel thicker; not sure green tea extract can do either of these,â€ he says.
In a statement provided to Yahoo Beauty, the ADA agrees that more research is needed: â€œWhile the study is interesting, it is preliminary and additional research would need to be conducted in order to determine if it would work clinically.â€