Posted on: December 3, 2021
Understanding Sensitive Teeth
Are you familiar with the sudden, sharp pain that occurs when you eat hot, cold, or sweet food? It’s an irritation that can impact your daily life and limit what you can eat or drink unless you want a sudden jolt of pain. The pain is temporary, often easing away once the tooth returns to its normal temperature. Tooth sensitivity can affect one tooth or multiple teeth.
Tooth sensitivity usually results from a loss of tooth enamel, damage to a tooth, or gum tissue that recedes and exposes tooth roots. If just one tooth is affected, the sensitivity is usually caused by damage to the tooth, like a cavity or fracture. If teeth are generally sensitive, it can indicate the enamel is worn down. If your teeth are sensitive at the gumline, you may have receding gums.
Enamel is the hardest substance in our bodies. Despite enamel’s strength, it can erode or become damaged. Enamel protects the two inner layers of the teeth, the dentin and the pulp. Pulp contains the nerves, and the dentin is the middle layer. Dentin has tiny tunnels in it that lead to the pulp, so when the enamel isn’t protecting the teeth, the nerves can provoke pain from hot and cold stimuli.
A study published by the Journal of the American Dental Association states that about one in eight individuals suffer from sensitive teeth. Fortunately, there are ways to manage and even alleviate the intermittent pain sensitive teeth cause. Teeth sensitivity is annoying, but your dentist can help. It’s also important to tell your dentist if the onset of your tooth sensitivity is sudden, as this could indicate a serious dental issue.
What Makes Teeth Sensitive?
Many different things can cause dentin exposure, including:
- Cavities – While they usually only cause sensitivity in one tooth, if left untreated the decay can impact the surrounding teeth.
- Fractures – Cracks in teeth can include hairline fractures you can’t see, but your dentist will be able to recognize with x rays or a thorough exam.
- Poor Toothbrushing Techniques
- Bruxism – Teeth grinding wears enamel down
- Gastric Reflux
- Broken Fillings
- Acidic Foods and Beverages
- Gum Disease
- Overuse of Teeth Whitening Products
You can also blame your genes for sensitive teeth. Some individuals inherit thin or weak enamel from their parents, making them more likely to experience teeth sensitivity.
What Can I Do to Make My Teeth Less Sensitive?
If aggressive toothbrushing is eroding your enamel, switch to a soft toothbrush. If you’re using an abrasive toothpaste, switch to a desensitizing one with fluoride. If you’re using teeth whitening products, discontinue their use. During your next regular dental exam, ask your dentist about a fluoride treatment to help build your enamel back to its original strength.
You can ask your dentist to recommend an effective, but safe, teeth whitening product. He or she may suggest an in-office treatment or a custom teeth whitening kit made in the dental office for you to take home.
Limit your consumption of acidic drinks and foods. If you consume soft drinks, drink them using a straw. It’s better to have wine, coffee or any other acidic drink with a meal so your saliva can help wash away the acid. Don’t sip on them all day long; this will do more damage. Limit citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickled products and other acidic foods to meals as well.
To help rebuild your tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity, eat foods that strengthen teeth, such as proteins, whole grains, vegetables and dairy products. Oddly enough, it is the non-organic vegetables that contain the most fluoride as fluoride is an ingredient in most pesticides. Drink plenty of water; tap water is best if you have fluoridated water from your local supplier. Some bottled waters also contain fluoride, although usually not enough to make a difference.
If you grind your teeth at night, learn about the common reasons why people engage in this behavior so you can break the habit. Most often, the causes are stress or too many stimulants, like caffeine, before going to sleep. In the meantime, talk to your dentist about how to protect your teeth.
If you have acid reflux or any other condition where stomach acid can come in contact with your teeth, seek treatment for the reflux with your doctor. They may be able to prescribe medicine or other treatments.
Sensitivity Treatments Dentists Can Offer?
Teeth sensitivity can be a sign of a serious dental issue, especially if just one tooth is sensitive. A dentist can:
Check your teeth for cavities, cracks worn out or failed dental fillings. Once he or she restores the tooth with a filling, bonding or a crown, the sensitivity will cease. You may feel sensitivity for a day or two after the procedure; this is only because the nerves were disturbed. If you don’t get treatment for these issues, your sensitivity can turn into constant pain and require more extensive treatment. Sensitivity is often a warning sign that something is wrong.
If you have gum loss, your tooth roots may be sensitive. Your dentist can treat your gum disease and place a sealant over the roots to ease your pain. Another option is a gum graft to replace lost gum tissue.
Your dentist about a customized night guard that will protect your teeth enamel and restorations from damage if you grind your teeth while sleeping. Unlike night guards that you can buy online, these are made specifically for you so they provide the maximum protection for your teeth.
Dentists can help patients with weak enamel they inherited from their parents with fluoride treatments and suggestions for products with fluoride. In-office treatments have a high concentration of fluoride that can help rebuild enamel. Dentists can also prescribe professional grade products for patients to use at home.
If you have sensitive teeth, schedule an appointment with a dentist. You can learn why you have sensitivity and how you can find the best way to stop it for good. Go back to eating and drinking the hot and cold foods you desire without sharp sudden pain.