Tooth Sensitivity – Why it Happens and What to do About it

Jun 3, 2014 | Dental Information, Oral Health Care, Restorative Dental Care

For most people, tooth sensitivity is a serious problem triggered by the introduction of a number of things into the mouth including hot, cold and sweet foods and drinks. The pain is usually instantaneous and sharp and dives into your teeth’s nerves.

When the underlying layer of your teeth, known as dentin, is exposed due to receding gum lines, thousands of tiny pathways leading to the nerve centers of your teeth are exposed. These pathways (called dentinal tubules) allow the stimuli (hot, cold and sweet, etc.) to make its way to the nerve in each affected tooth – resulting in pain.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is caused by a number of factors, some of them are the results of dental care habits, while others are related to gum disease. The major culprits include:

Brushing too hard. Forceful brushing or the use of hard-bristled toothbrushes wears down the enamel on your teeth and exposes the dentin.

Gum disease (gingivitis). Sensitivity as the result of inflamed and sore gum tissue can expose the root surface leading to the nerve of one or more teeth.

Cracked teeth. Teeth that are chipped and/or broken can fill with bacteria and enter the pulp where it can cause painful inflammation.

Teeth grinding. Excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth wears down your enamel and can expose your dentin. (Have you considered a night mouth guard?)

Tooth whitening products. Toothpaste and whiteners that contain baking soda and peroxide are big contributors to teeth sensitivity.

Plaque build-up. The presence of plaque on the root surfaces can cause sensitivity.

Acidic foods. Regular consumption of foods with a high acid content, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles and tea, can cause enamel erosion.

Reducing Tooth Sensitivity

You have plenty of options for reducing the painful effects of sensitive teeth and, as usual, we’re here to help you along the way. One of the most effecting ways to keep the pain of sensitive teeth away is by maintaining good oral hygiene – that means cleaning your teeth and mouth through proper flossing and brushing habits. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush will help reduce abrasion to your teeth and gum irritation as well.

Buy a toothpaste formulated specifically for people with sensitive teeth. There are a number of products and brands on the market, so you may have to try a few before you find one that works well for you. Aside from brushing with toothpaste for sensitive teeth, you may also want to try spreading a thin layer on any exposed roots using a Q-tip or your fingertip before bed.

Use dental care products that are fluoridated – including a fluoridated mouth rinse. Their widely available, but we can also offer you some effective products through our practice as well.

If all Else Fails, You Still Have Options for Tooth Sensitivity

If none of the above help alleviate your tooth sensitivity to an acceptable level, talk to us. We can perform some simple procedures to reduce tooth sensitivity. White fillings to cover exposed roots, fluoride varnishes and dentin sealers can all be effective and we perform the procedures in our offices.

You don’t have to live with the sharp pain of sensitive teeth. If you have any questions about how to alleviate your pain, or need advice about products or good dental hygiene, you can always give us a call in the office.