Did you know that at least 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth in the United States? Anyone is at risk for this dental health concern. Tooth sensitivity refers to that flash of sharp pain that you feel when something hot, cold, sweet or acidic hits your tooth. While the pain is typically temporary, it can be quite a disruption to your everyday life. More importantly, your tooth pain could be a signal that something needs to be addressed within your oral health. Here’s a closer look at tooth sensitivity and why you should never ignore it.

Understanding Your Tooth Pain

Understanding sensitive teeth requires understanding the anatomy of a tooth. The outer enamel layer works to protect the inner dentin layer of your tooth. Since dentin contains thousands of microscopic tubules that connect to the inner pulp and nerves of a tooth, when the enamel breaks down or suffers damage, the outside elements can reach these sensitive nerves and cause pain. The tooth roots are also extra sensitive, but healthy gums will protect them. Therefore, in addition to enamel damage, any recession in the gum line can also trigger sensitive teeth. Extreme temperatures as well as acidic and sweet substances tend to be the most reactive within the tooth nerves.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Gum recession and enamel damage can occur from many different reasons. Consequently, the causes of tooth sensitivity are also widespread. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some factors that contribute to sensitive teeth may include:

  • Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. This can wear down enamel, causing dentin to become exposed, or encourage gum recession.
  • Gum recession. This often happens in people suffering from periodontal disease, and it exposes the dentin.
  • Inflamed and sore gum tissue can result in exposure of the tooth’s root.
  • Cracked teeth. These can become filled with bacteria from plaque and cause inflammation in the pulp of the tooth. In more severe cases, it may lead to abscess and infection.
  • Teeth grinding or clenching. This can wear down enamel.
  • Plaque buildup.
  • Long-term use of mouthwash. Some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acids. If dentin is exposed dentin, the acids can make existing tooth sensitivity worse and also further damage the dentin layer. There are neutral fluoride mouthwashes available that might be a better option.
  • Acidic foods. These can encourage enamel reduction.
  • Dental procedures. Teeth may be sensitive after professional cleaning, root planing, crown replacement and other tooth restoration procedures. Usually the pain will disappear in four to six weeks.

Treatments for Sensitive Teeth

Treatment for your sensitive teeth will be directly based on its cause in your particular situation. It can be as simple as using a softer-bristled toothbrush or wearing a nightguard to protect your teeth from teeth grinding. Other patients may require a filling, root canal, crown or gum grafting. If enamel damage is minor, composite resin can be applied to the enamel to rebuild the tooth and protect its inner structures.

At Riverwood Dental, we have the knowledge and tools it takes to help patients find effective, long-term relief from sensitive teeth. If your smile is signaling pain of any kind, let us know. Your teeth may be trying to tell you that something needs to be fixed. Our sensitive teeth treatments can help you enjoy ice cream and coffee without discomfort!