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Posted on: December 3, 2021
Understanding Sensitive Teeth
Are you experiencing a jolt of pain whenever you consume hot or cold foods and drinks? Tooth sensitivity can also occur when you brush your teeth using cold tap water. The pain may only last a second or two, but it’s annoying. Why should you have to turn down a hot chocolate on a wintery day or a lemonade on a hot day? You don’t have to; there are many treatments to address your tooth sensitivity and let you enjoy your favorite foods and beverages.
Teeth sensitivity usually happens when your tooth enamel has eroded. The enamel is extremely hard, but there are many ways it can wear down and expose the dentin underneath. Dentin has tiny tunnels that connect to the pulp on the inside of the tooth. The pulp contains the tooth’s nerve endings, which are very sensitive to stimulus. Receding gums can also cause sensitivity and a tooth’s roots don’t enjoy the protection enamel provides.
You can experience sensitivity at any age, but it is most common in individuals who are between 30 and 40 years of age. This is when gum recession commonly happens and when years of enamel erosion show.
What Causes Teeth to Become Sensitive?
There are many reasons for tooth sensitivity. The main ones include:
- Tooth decay – It sounds obvious, but many individuals who don’t get regular dental exams may have a cavity with no symptoms. As the cavity grows, it will cause tooth sensitivity once the hole exposes the dentin.
- A fractured tooth – A cracked tooth can expose the dentin. It may be a hairline fracture that you can’t even see, such as the kind you get from chewing ice.
- Brushing your teeth incorrectly – Brushing incorrectly, such as using a back-and-forth motion, or using a hard toothbrush can cause tooth enamel to erode.
- A damaged filling – Dental fillings can wear down, crack or become loose over time. A metal filling can last about 15 years while a composite resin one will last up to 10 years. If you grind your teeth at night, your fillings will become loose quicker.
- Gum Recession- If you develop gum disease, your gums may recede. The roots lose the protection of the gums. Enamel does not cover the roots like it does the crown of the tooth. Other things, like smoking and overenthusiastic brushing, can also cause gum recession.
- Teeth grinding- Grinding your teeth at night (bruxism) can wear down the enamel and damage existing fillings. Your dentist can look for signs of bruxism during an exam if you’re not sure if you grind your teeth while asleep.
- OTC teeth-whitening products – Gels, strips, and other teeth-whitening products can make your teeth sensitive. Stop using your current product and ask your dentist for suggestions. When you do choose one, use only as directed. In-office whitening can also make your teeth sensitive, but the effect is temporary.
- Consuming excessive amounts of highly acidic foods – Acidic beverages and foods can cause enamel erosion over time.
- Genetics – Some people inherit naturally thin enamel from their parents, making them more prone to experiencing sensitivity.
- Acid Reflux – Stomach acid that enters your mouth from chronic acid reflux can erode enamel.
What Can I Do About My Teeth Sensitivity?
The most important thing you can do is consult your dentist. Let him or her know if you notice sensitivity in one area of your mouth or if it is more generalized. Also mention if you’ve started using any new products lately, like a whitening mouthwash.
Treatments Dentists Recommend for Sensitive Teeth
Your dentist will suggest a way to relieve your sensitive teeth depending on the reason you are feeling pain. If only one tooth is sensitive, your dentist will look for the issue, like a cavity or fracture, in the tooth. If you’re experiencing general sensitivity, a dentist will look at possible reasons for enamel loss.
- Dental fillings – A filling will relieve sensitivity if you have a cavity which ate a hole through the tooth’s enamel.
- Replacing old fillings – Your dentist can replace a filling that is allowing decay in the cavity.
- Bonding a cracked tooth – A cracked tooth won’t heal by its self. Dentists use composite resin to repair cracks and restore the tooth. Depending on the size of the fracture and where it is located in your mouth, your dentist may also suggest placing a crown over the tooth.
- Learning better brushing habits – Being overly aggressive while tooth brushing can actually damage your enamel. Use s soft-bristled toothbrush, not a hard one. The soft bristles will clean better and not erode your enamel.
- Treatment for exposed roots – Your dentist can apply a sealant material to your gums or he or she may suggest a gum graft.
- Custom night guard – If you grind your teeth in your sleep, a custom night guard from your dentist can help prevent further damage to your teeth.
- Recommendations for teeth whitening products – Learn about safe alternatives and how to use them correctly. Low-quality OTC whitening products can cause sensitivity because they are too harsh.
- Cut back on acidic foods and drinks – Your dentist may ask you about your diet and suggest you limit your consumption of:
citrus fruits and juices
If you want a glass of orange juice or another acidic drink, use a straw to limit your teeth’s exposure.
- Fluoride treatments – If your enamel needs fortifying because of your diet, genetics or any other reason, your dentist may suggest a fluoride treatment. It’s a simple, concentrated form of fluoride that goes on as a varnish or possibly a foam. The treatment is noninvasive and takes only a few minutes.
Don’t take sudden tooth sensitivity lightly. Your dentist can help you find the most appropriate treatment for you. There’s no reason to avoid foods and drinks you enjoy anymore when help is as close as your local dentist’s office.