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Understanding Sensitive Teeth

Ever had a sip of hot coffee or bitten into a popsicle and felt a sharp twinge of pain? Sometimes, something very sweet can also trigger the same feeling. If teeth sensitivity is disrupting your life, you are not alone. About one in eight adults suffer from this common condition.

Understanding why teeth become sensitive can help you find the best way to deal with the issue. The pain you feel when consuming something that is hot or cold originates in the innermost layer of the tooth, the pulp. The pulp is surrounded by dentin and enamel covers the tooth to protect the inner two layers. Enamel is the strongest substance found in the human body, but it’s still subject to damage and erosion. Sensitivity occurs when the enamel exposes the dentin. The dentin has microscopic tubes that connect to the pulp, so certain sensations trigger pain.

Since having sensitive teeth can limit what you eat and drink, you will want to find a way to stop it. It isn’t difficult to stop teeth sensitivity once you know why it is occurring. Together, you and your dentist can determine the cause and find a treatment that will have you enjoying your favorite treats once again.

What Is Tooth Sensitivity Commonly the Result Of?

1. Brushing your teeth overzealously can cause teeth sensitivity. If you use a hard toothbrush, or brush to hard with a soft toothbrush, you can wear down the enamel that is protecting your teeth.

2. Damage to your teeth that exposes the dentin will cause sensitivity that often comes on suddenly. Damage can include cavities, fractures, and chips. It’s important to visit your dentist regularly as these things can go undetected if they are small.

3. Failed fillings that are loose or have a crack in them will allow sensations that trigger pain to reach the dentin. Failed fillings can also leave teeth vulnerable to further decay, necessitating a root canal or other invasive measure to correct the problem.

4. Over-the-counter teeth whitening products can cause sensitivity, especially if your enamel is already thin. Overusing the products or misusing them can also cause sensitivity problems.

5. You can wear down your enamel if you grind your teeth at night, known as bruxism. It can also cause your teeth to chip or fracture, exposing the dentin even more. You may wake with a sore jaw or a headache if you are grinding your teeth at night.

6. Gum disease can cause receding gums that expose the tooth roots. Since the roots don’t have a protective enamel outer layer, hot and cold sensations reach the nerves more easily.

7. Long-term acid reflux allows stomach acid to enter the mouth and cause acid erosion to the enamel. It can create damage to other parts of your body as well, so it’s best to get it treated as soon as possible.

8. Some people have naturally weak tooth enamel because of genetics. They will have translucent looking teeth. Fortunately, your dentist can suggest treatments and things you can do at home to strengthen your tooth enamel.

What Do Dentists Do About Sudden or Severe Tooth Sensitivity?

If you have sudden sensitivity in a single tooth, you should see a dentist right away, as this can be a sign of a serious problem.

Your dentist will perform an exam and take x-rays to look for decay, cracks in your teeth, or small chips that could expose the dentin. Fillings, bonding and crowns are potential solutions for damaged teeth that will restore the tooth and stop the sensitivity. You may experience slight sensitivity after getting a filling or having a crown placed, but it is only temporary.

If you have exposed roots, your dentist will look for signs of gum disease. While gums can recede for other reasons, gum disease requires treatment to control the infection. Your dentist may suggest a deep dental cleaning in hopes the gum tissue that separated from the teeth will reattach to the teeth. If the recession is extreme and the gums receded too far, a dentist can perform a gum graft to place the lost tissue.

If you grind your teeth while sleeping, your dentist can take an impression of your teeth and create a custom night guard for you to wear at night. It will protect your tooth enamel from further damage. It will also protect any crowns or dental fillings you have from cracking under the pressure.

What Are Some DIY Treatments for Sensitive Teeth?

If you’re experiencing mild, general sensitivity, here are few simple suggestions you can try at home. You should still see a dentist, but these may help in the meantime.

Switch to a toothpaste meant to stop sensitivity. These typically work by blocking the tubes in the dentin so hot or cold feelings don’t reach the nerves. Desensitizing toothpastes may take a week or two to provide you with complete relief.

Switch to a soft toothbrush and a nonabrasive fluoride toothpaste. Use a gentle hand when brushing. Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and use a circular motion to clean teeth.

Stop using your at-home teeth whitening product if you use one. Ask your dentist for a recommendation for an effective product you can try that won’t make your teeth sensitive. You can also ask about a safe, professional whitening treatment that will give you dramatic, long-lasting results safely.

Cut back on acidic foods and beverages. If you enjoy sodas or other acidic drinks, consume them with a straw and in one sitting so you can rinse your mouth with water afterward. Don’t sip on a soft drink or coffee all day long.

If you’re suffering from sensitive teeth, make an appointment with a dentist. He or she can determine what is creating the problem and find a treatment that solves your problem. If you have worn down enamel, you can get an in-office fluoride treatment from your dentist while making sure you’ve stopped whatever is that was causing the enamel to erode. The highly concentrated fluoride can help rebuild your enamel.

Don’t forgo your favorite foods because your teeth are sensitive. In many cases, it only takes a simple lifestyle change or getting a minor dental problem fixed to eliminate teeth sensitivity. See your local dentist today to get started.

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