If you’ve ever bitten into something and thought “why do my teeth hurt?” then you’ve experienced the unpleasant sensation of tooth sensitivity. Passing on hot or cold drinks, avoiding certain foods, or otherwise disrupting your diet because you know your teeth will hurt is a tough way to live, and sensitive teeth are one of the most common reasons to go to the dentist, but tooth sensitivity is highly treatable once you understand what’s causing it.
What is Teeth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is the feeling of pain that you might encounter when your teeth are exposed to an especially hot or cold temperature or certain foods. Sensitive teeth are most often caused by thin enamel—the hard outer layer of your teeth—exposing the soft and sensitive inner layer, called the dentin, to these stimuli. The pain you feel is the tooth nerve reacting to things it normally wouldn’t feel.
What Are the Causes of Teeth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is a treatment area of family dentistry that can have multiple causes, and understanding which one relates to you is crucial in treating the problem. Some common causes of sensitivity include:
Brushing Too Hard
While daily brushing is important, brushing too often, too long, or too hard can wear down the enamel layer of your teeth. You should be using a soft-bristled toothbrush for two minutes twice per day. Use gentle pressure, especially if you have an electric toothbrush.
Sometimes sensitive teeth can be an indicator that something is going on under the surface. As we get older, even healthy gums can start to recede, exposing the root of the tooth where there is less enamel. Plaque and tartar buildup can also cause gum recession and disease.
If you have suffered an accident resulting in dental trauma, even a hairline fracture in your tooth can expose the dentin and cause tooth sensitivity. If you believe you have a cracked tooth, schedule an appointment with your dentist for X-rays and a full examination to determine the extent of the problem.
Bruxism, the medical definition of grinding your teeth, can result in wear on your enamel. Sometimes we even grind our teeth at night while we sleep, which may require a night guard or other specialized devices or behavioral changes to treat.
How to Treat Sensitive Teeth?
Once you’ve established the cause of your tooth sensitivity, you can start to come up with a treatment plan. Even if you find there’s a single main cause for your sensitivity, adopting some of the following family dentistry guidelines can help you prevent the return of symptoms or the development of new ones.
Take Care of Tooth Enamel
Use fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash to strengthen your enamel layer. Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that fills the microscopic gaps in the enamel layer and prevents them from breaking down into larger openings.
Avoid Acidic Foods And Drinks
Overly acidic foods and drinks like citrus foods, coffee, sour candies, etc., dissolve the enamel layer and can lead to tooth sensitivity, cavities, and more extensive problems later on.
Take a Break from Bleaching
Everyone loves a gleaming, white smile, but bleaching too intensely or too often can harm your oral health. Bleach strips away the outer, stained enamel layers of your teeth revealing the whiter ones behind them. But since you are physically stripping away the enamel, which cannot be replaced once lost, you may eventually start to experience sensitivity.
Maintain Good Oral Hygiene
Plaque and tartar contain harmful bacteria which excrete acid as they feed on leftover food and nutrients in your mouth. Brushing twice per day and flossing in the evenings, along with drinking plenty of water, all minimize the amount of acid-producing bacteria in your mouth.
When Should I See My Dentist for Teeth Sensitivity?
Visiting a caring dentist for regular dental checkups is an important part of preventing and treating tooth sensitivity. Dentists can clean parts of your teeth that are difficult to reach with a home care regimen, and these places are often where harmful bacteria congregate to weaken your enamel and create sensitive teeth. If you find that your teeth are suddenly sensitive in ways they weren’t before, have persistent sensitivity despite good oral care, or are exceptionally sensitive to the point of pain, then it’s important to seek treatment from a family dental care specialist.
If you live in Northern Nevada, the Spanish Spring Family Dental team is prepared to help diagnose and treat your tooth sensitivity. Our dedicated staff has years of experience providing affordable family dentistry so our patients can maintain strong, healthy teeth in a welcoming and comfortable clinic. So if you are struggling with sensitive teeth, need treatment advice, or have any other questions, schedule your first appointment with your new dentist in Sparks today!