If you’ve ever felt a zingy jolt of pain when you sip or eat something hot, cold, or sweet, you know exactly how excruciating tooth sensitivity can be – a problem that arises from either enamel damage or gum recession.

Although enamel is the hardest tissue in the human body, protecting the living tissues within each tooth, it’s not invulnerable. A teeth grinding habit can wear it down. So can excessive exposure to acids in the food and drink you consume. Sodas and juices can be especially harmful, delivering a hit of both acids and sugar. The sugar feeds harmful oral bacteria, which generate acids of their own.

Eroded enamel exposes the softer dentin underneath, which is made of miles of microscopic tubules that contain nerve endings. They fire when touched by cold, heat, or something sweet. You wince in pain and hope it will quickly subside.

Gum recession exposes a tooth’s more sensitive root area, which is covered not by enamel but a slightly softer tissue called cementum. Cementum provides precious little protection from temperature extremes. Recession is most often caused by bruxing (habitual teeth grinding), gum disease, and overaggressive brushing.

You don’t just have to live with tooth sensitivity, though. Desensitizing toothpastes can help (fluoride-free, of course), particularly those that contain hydroxyapatite. This is the mineral that natural tooth enamel is made of. It can help plug the dentinal tubules so the nerves won’t be constantly zapped, while also helping remineralize and fortify the enamel by integrating into its structure.

In more severe cases, we can apply a fluoride-free, BPA-free sealant to block the exposed dentin. Gum grafts can be done to cover exposed root surfaces.

And in biological dentistry, we have one more option that most conventional dentists don’t yet use: medical grade ozone.

Ozone is a form of oxygen that has an extra oxygen atom. It’s O3 instead of O2, which is the form of oxygen we breathe. That extra atom in ozone makes it highly reactive and antimicrobial.

In the case of tooth sensitivity, ozone helps by removing microscopic debris from the tooth surface, then oxidizing and disinfecting the dentinal tubules, allowing them to be plugged by minerals like hydroxyapatite, thereby reducing sensitivity.

Although we’ve seen it do wonders for our own patients, recent scientific research offers empirical support for the treatment, as well.

In fact, just this month, a new study was published in the Journal of Endodontics, which looked at both diode lasers and dental ozone as potential treatments for tooth sensitivity.

Researchers evaluated 132 teeth from 44 patients with moderate dentin sensitivity and randomized them into three groups according to a split mouth design. This is a type of study in which each participant receives two or more different treatments, but each is applied to a different side or area of the mouth.

One group of teeth were treated with laser and another, with ozone gas. Teeth in the third group received no treatment at all. Sensitivity was evaluated before and immediately after treatment, and again at three and six months after treatment.

The research team found that sensitivity decreased significantly in both the ozone and laser groups at all post-treatment checkpoints. But here’s the kicker:

After 6 months from the therapy, the sensitivity values in the teeth treated with ozone gas remained statistically lower than those treated with diode lasers.

In other words, both treatments worked, but ozone’s effects lasted longer. “Ozone,” they wrote, “maintains an invariable effectiveness after 6 months.”

This is just one more reason why we consider dental ozone one of the most important – and versatile! – tools we have to help the patients who entrust us with their care, knowing we’re committed to providing truly holistic, minimally invasive biological dentistry that supports their total health and well-being.