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Posted on: December 3, 2021
Understanding Sensitive Teeth
If your teeth are sensitive, you’re probably familiar with the twinges of pain that come eating or drinking steaming hot or very cold foods and beverages. Hot coffee, iced tea or ice cream can cause a sudden jolt of pain. Sometimes, sweet or acidic triggered sensitivity as well. The pain may only last a second or two, but it can take you by surprise if you forget to let your food or drink reach room temperature. Fortunately, sensitive teeth are treatable.
When you know the anatomy of your teeth, you can better understand how teeth sensitivity occurs. Exposed dentin causes tooth sensitivity. The crowns of teeth have enamel covering them to protect the dentin, which contains tiny tunnels that connect to the nerves inside teeth. Teeth roots have cementum protecting the dentin, but it isn’t as hard as enamel, so enamel wear and gum recession can both cause sensitivity.
About one in eight Americans have sensitive teeth. While the condition is very common, it is also highly treatable. Don’t let tooth sensitivity limit what you eat and drink. See your dentist to learn why you’re experiencing sensitivity and learn about your treatment options.
What Contributes to Tooth Sensitivity?
Everything from dental care products you use to damage to a tooth can cause sensitivity. Usually, if you have one tooth that’s sensitive, it’s because of a cavity or other issue in the tooth. When all of your teeth, or at least most of them, are sensitive, it could be related to your dental care habits and the foods and drinks you consume.
Typical causes related to your choice of products you use at home and your diet include:
- Using a hard toothbrush may cause teeth sensitivity. So will applying too much pressure when using a soft toothbrush. If you’re bending the bristles, you are pressing too hard. Also, don’t use a back-and-forth motion across your teeth. Hold the brush at a 45-degree angle and use a circular motion.
- Using mouthwashes containing alcohol frequently can easily promote teeth sensitivity, Use an alcohol-free mouthwash with fluoride instead.
- Teeth whitening toothpastes, strips and other products may cause sensitivity, especially if you overuse them. Unsafe products can be overly acidic or abrasive. Always use a product with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance to ensure the product is safe to use.
- Consuming a diet high in acidic beverages and foods may erode tooth enamel. Foods and drinks to watch out for include:
Carbonated beverages such as soft drinks and sports drinks
Fermented dairy products
High-sodium processed foods
- Having a condition like acid reflux can allow stomach acid to enter the mouth and cause acid erosion of your tooth enamel.
What Dental Problems Will Cause Teeth Sensitivity?
If you notice one tooth is suddenly sensitive, it typically is a sign of a dental problem. See your dentist for a diagnosis and learn about your treatment options.
- Cavities are a common cause for tooth sensitivity. Once your dentist cleans out the cavity and fills it, the sensitivity will end. Be sure to get your cavity treated when it is small. This means making regular trips to the dentist so they can check for problems before they become expensive to fix.
- As dental fillings age, they can crack or become loose. Your dentist can replace the filling to prevent further decay and keep sensations from reaching the nerves.
- Fractured teeth, even a small hairline fracture you can’t see, can lead to sensitivity. A fracture can also cause pain, especially when biting down. While tooth enamel is extremely durable, chewing on hard candies or ice can create fractures. Depending on the size and location of the fracture, your dentist may recommend bonding or a crown.
- Grinding your teeth while you sleep will eventually erode your teeth enamel. It can also fracture your teeth or fillings. Your dentist can have a lab create a customized night guard for you to wear to protect your teeth from damage. While it may take some getting used to, the mouth guard should help solve the problem quickly.
- When gums recede, the roots show. They don’t have the same protection as the crowns of teeth, so they can become sensitive easily. In many cases, gum disease causes receding gums. Your dentist can treat the underlying disease and then perform a gum graft to cover the roots. Gum grafts can also improve your teeth’s appearance.
What Is an At-home Remedy for Sensitive Teeth?
You can use a desensitizing toothpaste, which block sensations of hot and cold from reaching the nerves. It may take days or weeks before you notice results. While effective, a desensitizing toothpaste does not address the cause for your teeth sensitivity. You should still talk to your dentist, who may suggest a fluoride treatment or another long-term solution.
Limit your intake of acidic foods and drinks. If you do indulge, consume them during a meal when saliva can help wash away the acid. Use a straw to drink acidic drinks between meals to avoid prolonged exposure to your teeth. Rinse your mouth with water afterward.
Increase the fluoride in your diet to help strengthen your enamel. Tap water is ideal is you have fluoridated municipal water, Black tea is also a good source of fluoride.
Keep up with your regular dental exams. Your dentist can check for any problems that could cause sensitivity in they are left untreated. Always practice good dental hygiene at home too. You can help prevent cavities, gum disease and other dental problems that can cause sensitivity when you have regular checkups.
Teeth sensitivity is irritating, but it doesn’t have to be. Just because your teeth look healthy and the jolts of pain are temporary, does not mean you can ignore the problem and think it will get better on its own. Teeth sensitivity will not get better on its own, it requires a professional dental solution. See a dentist to find out why it’s happening and can do to stop the flashes of pain.