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Posted on: December 15, 2021
Understanding Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth are an all too common problem that affects the lives of millions of people. If you experience discomfort when drinking hot and cold beverages, or if you feel a sharp, stinging sensation when eating or drinking something sweet or acidic, you likely have sensitive teeth. It’s also common for people with sensitive teeth to experience pain while brushing or flossing or even breathing in cold air.
Tooth sensitivity can affect one or more teeth, and the condition can range in severity. Since sensitive teeth can be an early warning sign that you’re developing a more serious dental problem, it’s helpful to fully understand the different causes of sensitive teeth, the treatment options available, and the steps you can take to prevent the development of sensitive teeth.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
Enamel erosion is the primary culprit when it comes to sensitive teeth. Enamel is the hard protective layer that covers your teeth. Below the enamel is a layer of cementum, which protects the roots of teeth below the gum line. Dentin is the porous layer found underneath the enamel and cementum. It contains many tiny openings that are called tubules or canals.
Inside these canals are nerves and blood vessels that are found in the center of the tooth. When enamel wears away, the dentin loses its protective layer as a result, causing pain and discomfort when drinking hot or cold liquids, eating acidic foods, or even breathing through your mouth.
But what exactly causes tooth enamel to break down and wear away? Surprisingly, there are numerous dental conditions and other risk factors that cause enamel erosion. Here’s a closer look at the causes of tooth sensitivity:
- Eating acidic foods: Eating foods and beverages with a high acid content, including wine, coffee, tomatoes, and citrus fruits can contribute to enamel erosion when consumed regularly.
- Rinsing with mouthwash: Many types of mouthwash contain high amounts of alcohol or other ingredients that can cause sensitivity if you’re enamel is starting to wear away. The alcohol and acids present can cause additional damage to the dentin layer, which can worsen the pain and discomfort you feel.
- Brushing with whitening toothpaste: If you frequently brush your teeth with whitening toothpaste, it’s possible to experience tooth pain and sensitivity. That’s because the whitening chemicals found in this type of toothpaste can be harsh on tooth enamel, causing it to wear down over time.
- Brushing too hard: If you brush your teeth too aggressively, or if you’re not using a toothbrush with soft bristles, it’s possible to wear down tooth enamel. If you brush too hard, you’re also increasing your risk of receding gums, which can worsen tooth sensitivity.
- Gum disease: If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more serious stage of periodontal disease, which can cause your gums to recede and pull away from your teeth. When your gums recede, the tooth roots are exposed, which causes sensitivity.
- Grinding or clenching your teeth: Grinding your teeth at night or during the day weakens tooth enamel, causing it to wear away and expose the sensitive dentin layer.
- Recent dental work: Many common dental procedures, including crown placements, dental fillings, root canals, and other tooth restorations can lead to temporary tooth sensitivity. If you’re still experiencing sensitivity for weeks after a dental procedure, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist.
- Cracked or chipped teeth: A broken, chipped, or cracked tooth is vulnerable to bacteria, which can enter the tooth through a crack or fracture and cause extreme pain and sensitivity.
- Tooth decay: Cavities cause tiny holes or openings in the surface of your teeth. This can expose the dentin of your tooth, leading to tooth pain and sensitivity. It’s also possible for older fillings to develop fractures or leaks around the edges. This causes the buildup of bacteria and acid, which can wear away tooth enamel.
Since tooth sensitivity has so many potential causes, the first step towards finding relief is scheduling a consultation with your dentist in Wayzata. Your dentist can help you discover the specific cause of your tooth sensitivity and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
How Can I Treat Tooth Sensitivity?
If you’re suffering from sensitive teeth, the good news is that dentists can use a variety of treatment options to provide relief from your symptoms. Depending on the underlying cause of your tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend any of these treatments:
- Desensitizing toothpaste: A desensitizing toothpaste contains ingredients that prevent sensations from traveling from the surface of teeth to the nerves. After several applications, it’s possible for this type of toothpaste to significantly reduce pain and sensitivity.
- Fluoride treatment: Commonly used to treat cavities, fluoride treatment can also reduce tooth sensitivity. It works by creating a protective covering over your teeth.
- Bonding agent: During this in-office procedure, your dentist seals the surface of your teeth with a bonding agent. Treatment works by acting as a barrier that prevents sensitivity when exposed to irritating substances.
- Gum graft: This is a surgical procedure that replaces gum tissue that has receded from your teeth, helping protect your teeth from pain and discomfort.
- Mouthguard: Wearing a mouthguard protects your tooth enamel from thinning and causing sensitivity if you suffer from tooth grinding.
Reducing Your Risk of Sensitive Teeth
If you’re concerned about developing sensitive teeth, following a good oral care regimen at home and seeing your dentist regularly are the best tools you can use to prevent tooth sensitivity. Follow these tips to reduce your risk of tooth sensitivity:
- Floss daily.
- Gently brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice daily.
- See your dentist every six months.
- Avoid or restrict foods and drinks high in acid.
- Rinse with a mouthwash containing fluoride.
With treatment from your dentist and taking a few steps at home to promote healthy teeth and gums, it’s possible to minimize or even eliminate the pain caused by sensitive teeth.