Sensitive Teeth: Causes, Preventing, Treatment

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It’s safe to say that no one likes sensitive teeth. It can be pretty annoying when you are trying to treat yourself with your favorite hot or cold food or beverage, but tooth sensitivity is getting in the way.

There are a few things that you need to know about tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is commonly experienced when the outer layer of the teeth, the tooth enamel, becomes worn down. The layer underneath tooth enamel is known as dentin, which can be hypersensitive when exposed to stimuli like hot and cold temperatures.

Some of the common causes of tooth sensitivity include:

Tooth Decay: Poor oral hygiene in addition to a diet high in sugar and fermentable carbohydrates can lead to tooth decay and a whole host of other oral health issues. When food is not properly removed from the surfaces of teeth, oral bacteria feed off of the sugars we consume and in turn create harmful acids that break down tooth enamel. Consequently, your teeth may become sensitive as cavities form.

Tooth Erosion: Along with the harmful acids that bacteria create, acids from the foods and beverages we consume can ruin tooth enamel via erosion. Frequent consumption of energy drinks, sodas, citrus fruits, and other acidic items can cause your tooth enamel to wear down.

Trauma: Fracturing your tooth can increase your risk for tooth sensitivity as a result of exposure of the nerves within the tooth. Even trauma caused by tooth grinding can cause enamel wear which may lead to tooth sensitivity.

Worn or Loose Fillings: Fillings or dental restorations that have become worn down or loose may lead to tooth sensitivity as oral bacteria gain access to the inner layers of the tooth.

Gum Disease: Typically gum disease is a result of poor oral hygiene. It involves a bacterial infection that stimulates inflammation of your gums and can damage your teeth and the surrounding bone. Gum disease can cause tooth sensitivity, and if severe can result in tooth loss.

Gum Recession: When the gums begin to appear to wear away from the tooth, this can result in exposure of the root and cause tooth sensitivity. Gum recession may be caused by inappropriate brushing techniques (i.e. aggressive tooth brushing), gum disease, tooth grinding, tobacco use, or crooked teeth.

Age: Although tooth sensitivity can occur at any age, the Journal of Conservative Dentistry reported that individuals between 30 to 40 years of age were most likely to report tooth sensitivity. Yet, the cause of the tooth sensitivity has not been determined.

You may experience some tooth sensitivity following completion of a dental procedure, such as a crown, filling, or whitening treatment. However, this sensitivity is often temporary.

Depending on the determined cause, the appropriate treatment will be recommended by your dental professional. For mild cases of tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend a toothpaste or mouthwash designed to treat tooth sensitivity. If your tooth is chipped, damaged, or is decayed, your dentist may recommend a filling or crown to protect the remaining tooth enamel. If the innermost layer of the tooth, the pulp, is infected, a root canal procedure may be suggested to remove the infection. If gum recession is causing sensitivity, a surgical gum graft may be performed to replace the missing gum tissue and help prevent further gum recession. In addition, your dentist may recommend applying a fluoride gel to help strengthen your tooth enamel.

With good oral hygiene habits, sometimes tooth sensitivity can go away without any other treatment. Not to mention, one of the best ways to treat tooth sensitivity is to try your best to prevent it from occurring all together! Keeping your tooth enamel strong and healthy is important, because once it is gone there is no way to get it back. Brushing at least twice a day for two minutes each time, and flossing daily are essential daily habits to keep your smile healthy. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing too hard. Keeping up with your regular dental checkups is also necessary and will allow any issues to be caught early before more extensive treatment becomes necessary. In addition, be mindful of your diet. Aim to consume tooth-friendly foods like cheese, milk, yogurt, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, and sugarless chewing gum. It is best to limit consumption of acidic foods and beverages, as well as items with a high sugar content.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is important to let your dentist know as soon as possible. Your dental professionals will be able to get to the bottom of the cause and recommend the proper treatment that is needed so that you can get back to consuming the things you love.