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Posted on: December 15, 2021
Understanding Sensitive Teeth
If you have sensitive teeth, it can take away your enjoyment of many of your favorite foods and drinks. Drinking a cup of coffee in the morning, sipping on iced tea, or eating an orange can cause immediate pain. Sometimes even breathing in cold air or simply brushing or flossing your teeth can cause tooth pain and sensitivity. The pain is typically sharp and sudden, although it’s usually only temporary.
Tooth sensitivity is a common and treatable dental problem that has many different causes. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, approximately 40 million people in the United States suffer from tooth sensitivity. But what causes sensitive teeth, and what can you do to reduce pain and sensitivity? Continue reading to find out.
Nine Causes of Sensitive Teeth
You’re at risk of developing sensitive teeth when your enamel becomes worn down. The crowns of your teeth, which are the visible part above the gum line, are protected by a hard outer layer called enamel. Tooth roots are located underneath the gum tissue and are protected by a layer of cementum. Enamel and cementum are both responsible for protecting dentin, a part of your tooth that has small hollow tubes, which help you feel sensations in your teeth.
If a dental problem or another type of damage weakens your tooth enamel or exposes the roots of your teeth, the dentin layer becomes hypersensitive. This causes you to feel pain and discomfort when eating or drinking anything that’s cold, hot, or acidic.
There are many factors that can contribute to tooth sensitivity. These include:
- Your diet: Do you frequently eat or drink acidic foods and drinks, such as orange juice, tomatoes, coffee, and pickled products? Doing so can gradually strip away your tooth enamel. A diet high in sugar encourages the growth of bacteria, and the acids produced by bacteria can break down the structure of your teeth.
- Using mouthwash: Some types of mouthwash purchased over-the-counter contain harsh ingredients, like alcohol or acids, that can wear away tooth enamel. If you’re already showing signs of sensitive teeth, using a mouthwash with harsh ingredients can make sensitive teeth worse.
- Using tooth whitening products or toothpaste: Whitening products and toothpastes containing hydrogen peroxide or baking soda can cause tooth sensitivity by demineralizing tooth enamel.
- Aggressive brushing: If you brush too hard, it’s possible to wear down your tooth enamel. In addition, it can also cause your gum tissue to recede, which exposes your tooth roots and causes tooth pain and sensitivity.
- Receding gums: Gum tissue protects your tooth roots, but they can quickly become exposed if you have receding gums due to gum disease or brushing your teeth too hard.
- Grinding or clenching your teeth: Grinding your teeth damages your enamel and exposes the dentin layer, which makes your teeth much more susceptible to sensitivity.
- Recent dental work: Your teeth may be sensitive after certain dental procedures. This includes crown placement, root canal therapy, and root planing. The pain and sensitivity typically subsides within several weeks, but you should contact your dentist if it continues.
- Cracked or chipped teeth: It’s easy for cracked or chipped teeth to fill with bacteria, causing pain and inflammation. In advanced cases, it can lead to an infection, so it’s important to receive care from a dentist.
- Tooth decay: Untreated cavities eventually lead to tooth sensitivity. As the decay reaches the nerve of the affected tooth, it can become sensitive to temperature extremes.
It’s important to seek the help of a dentist when you first start noticing symptoms of sensitive teeth. Since most cases of tooth sensitivity are caused by an underlying dental problem, receiving treatment as soon as possible can prevent existing problems from getting worse.
What Can I Do About Sensitive Teeth?
Visiting your dentist in New Lenox is the first step towards finding relief from the pain of sensitive teeth. Only your dentist can detect problems early, before they become expensive and painful to fix. It’s important to get regular dental exams and cleanings. This can go a long way in helping you avoid dental problems, such as sensitive teeth.
Once your dentist determines the source of your tooth sensitivity, the next step is formulating a treatment plan that best suits your needs. Your dentist may suggest one or more of these treatment options for sensitive teeth:
- Desensitizing toothpaste: This type of toothpaste is specially formulated for tooth sensitivity, and it works by protecting your teeth and nerves from potentially irritating substances.
- Fluoride treatment: Fluoride is a professional treatment provided by your dentist that reduces sensitivity by strengthening tooth enamel and protecting the dentin layer.
- Bonding agent: During this in-office treatment, your dentist applies a composite resin that seals the surface of your teeth and repairs damage, such as cracks or fractures.
- Gum graft: A gum graft is a surgical procedure that treats receding gums by replacing lost gum tissue. This protects the tooth roots from additional damage and reduces tooth sensitivity.
- Mouthguard: If you grind your teeth, wearing a mouthguard at night prevents the grinding from weakening your enamel and damaging your teeth.
Preventing Sensitive Teeth
Although tooth sensitivity can be treated in a variety of ways, the best treatment is to take a proactive approach by practicing good dental care at home. Follow these tips to prevent tooth sensitivity and improve the health of your teeth and gums:
- Schedule dental cleanings and professional exams with your dentist every six months.
- Floss once a day and brush twice daily.
- Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing too hard.
- Use a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth.
- Limit your consumption of foods and drinks high in sugar and acid.
- When eating sugary foods and drinks or anything with a high acid content, always rinse your mouth after.
- Rinse your mouth with a fluoridated mouthwash.
You don’t have to avoid your favorite foods and drinks because they trigger tooth pain and sensitivity. Talk to your dentist about which treatment for sensitive teeth is right for you.