We are open - safety is our top priority!
Posted on: December 3, 2021
Understanding Sensitive Teeth
Does thinking about drinking a glass of cold ice water make you wince as you envision the temporary pain you will feel? Maybe you have to let your hot coffee cool to room temperature before you can enjoy it or pass on the double chocolate cake because it is too sweet. Tooth sensitivity can limit your food and beverage choices. Understanding the cause of your sensitivity, whether it is from overly aggressive brushing or a cavity or gum disease, is the key to treating it.
Dentin is the tissue in your tooth that surrounds the pulp. It has microscopic tunnels in it that reach the pulp. Pulp contains the nerves responsible for pain. The enamel protects both the dentin and pulp on the outside of the tooth’s crown. Cementum protects the roots. Despite enamel’s strength, it can wear down or get holes or cracks in it that let heat and cold reach the dentin and then the nerves which cause sensitivity. When gums recede, the cementum isn’t as strong as enamel. Tooth root sensitivity is also common.
While tooth sensitivity is an annoyance, it is treatable. Many treatments are simple, like switching toothbrushes or having a cavity filled.
Why Do Teeth Feel Sensitive?
1. Using a hard toothbrush can wear down your enamel and cause your gums to recede. Brushing too hard or using a back-and-forth motion can do the same thing.
2. An untreated cavity that ate a hole in the enamel and exposed the dentin will cause sensitivity in one tooth. If you have an existing filling that is loose or cracked, this can also expose the dentin to hot or cold stimuli.
3. A hairline fracture in your tooth that isn’t visible to the naked eye can also sensitivity in a single tooth. If you chew ice or hard candies, or grind your teeth, it is easy to crack a tooth.
4.Gum recession from gum disease can expose dentin and make teeth sensitive. Aggressive dental hygiene can also cause receding gums.
5. If you have bruxism and grind your teeth while sleeping, this may cause teeth sensitivity. The force from the grinding can erode tooth enamel and cause fillings and other restorations to crack, exposing the dentin.
6. Acidic foods and beverages can erode your enamel. One soft drink usually won’t hurt, but if you sip a soft drink all day long, it can do damage over time. Acidic foods and beverages include:
- soft drinks
- juices made from citrus fruits
- citrus fruits
- tomato products
- pickled products
7. Teeth whitening treatments you can buy OTC can also make your teeth sensitive, especially if they are poor quality or you overuse them. Discontinue use and ask your dentist for an ADA-recommended product that is safe and effective. Professional teeth whitening treatments from a dentist will also make your teeth sensitive, but it’s only temporary.
What Can I Do at Home to Avoid Sensitive Teeth?
The most important thing you can do is practice good dental hygiene. Brush twice daily for two minutes with a soft toothbrush and use a fluoride toothpaste. Floss at least once a day. This can help prevent cavities and gum disease, both of which can cause sensitive teeth.
Don’t forget regular check-ups with your dentist. If you have a cavity or loose filling, your dentist can catch it before it starts causing you pain.
Limit your intake of acidic foods and drinks. If you have them, include them with a meal. Use a straw with acidic drinks to limit your teeth’s exposure. Sipping a drink high in acid, like a soft drink, all day long keeps your teeth in constant contact with the acid. Have your drink and then rinse your mouth out with water.
If you want to whiten your teeth at home, use a product with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. If you use it as directed, the product will be effective and safe.
You can try a desensitizing toothpaste to relieve teeth sensitivity. It works by blocking the tunnels in the dentin so pain triggers cannot reach the nerves. These toothpastes can week to work fully, although you may see minor relief almost immediately. Desensitizing toothpaste isn’t a cure; you have to address the underlying problem if you want to get rid of your sensitive teeth for good.
The Internet is also full of quick DIY fixes for sensitive teeth, like clove oil and salt water rinses, but these don’t address the cause either.
What Are Five Treatments Dentists Offer for Sensitive Teeth?
1. Fluoride Treatments – These are professional treatments that provide a high concentration of fluoride at one time. They can rebuild enamel lost through wear from eating acidic foods, grinding your teeth at night or in times of stress or poor toothbrushing habits.
2. Dental Fillings – If a cavity leads to exposed dentin, a filling can stop hot and cold sensations from reaching the nerves. Your dentist can also examine existing fillings to ensure they are still intact and serving their purpose. It’s important to get a cavity fixed right away before it creates extensive and painful damage to the tooth and surrounding areas.
3. Fractured Teeth Repair – Dentists can repair cracked teeth with bonding agents or crowns depending on the size and location of the fracture.
4. Night Guards – A custom night guard will cushion your teeth while you sleep. If you grind your teeth, it can not only wear your enamel off your teeth, it can crack your teeth or existing fillings or crowns.
5. Exposed Root Treatment – Dentists commonly use gum grafts to cover exposed roots and stop sensitivity. This treatment will also make your smile look better and more natural.
Although teeth sensitivity is annoying, it can let you know something is wrong with your teeth. See an affordable dentist in your community, especially if you’re experiencing sensitivity in one or more teeth. Your dentist can recommend a solution that will stop the sensitivity.