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Understanding Sensitive Teeth

Are you annoyed with not being able to enjoy your coffee break with colleagues at work because hot coffee hurts your teeth? Maybe you’re tired on hot being able to have a cold lemonade on a scorching hot day. Tooth sensitivity, while irritating, is very common. Unfortunately, some individuals don’t bother talking to their dentist about it, even though teeth sensitivity is treatable. They simply limit what they eat and drink or wait until what they want is room temperature.

The primary reason people feel a jolt of pain when having something hot or cold, or a very sweet item, is wear of the tooth enamel. Enamel protects the tooth’s crown, the part of the tooth you see. The next layer in the dentin and then the pulp is the innermost layer. While the nerves reside in the pulp, the dentin has microscopic tubes that connect to the pulp. If hot or cold sensations reach the dentin because the enamel has a hole in it from a cavity because it’s worn away, you will feel pain until the tooth returns to its normal temperature. Tooth roots have cementum to protect them instead of enamel. If you have gum recession, the cementum can wear away easily as it isn’t as hard as enamel.

Talk to your dental professional about teeth sensitivity. There are many solutions available, depending on the cause. Finding out why your teeth are sensitive is essential to your enjoying your favorite foods and beverages again.

What Are the Main Culprits Behind Teeth Sensitivity?

Brushing Too Rigorously – Use a soft hand and a soft toothbrush. If the bristles are bending as you brush in a circular motion, you are using too much pressure. Enamel can erode over time if overzealous in brushing.

Cavities – If you don’t have regular dental checkups, you could have a cavity that goes untreated and breaks through the enamel. The result is that hot and cold sensations can reach the nerves and cause sensitivity.

A Cracked or Missing Filling – Fillings usually don’t last forever. Dentists usually examine existing fillings during routine exams to make sure bacteria can’t get in the tooth and cause sensitivity. Metal fillings can last about 15 years while composite fillings may last 10 years.

Teeth Grinding – Grinding your teeth while you sleep can wear down your enamel, loosen fillings and fracture your teeth. All of these can lead to tooth sensitivity, along with all the other problems grinding your teeth while you sleep (bruxism) can cause.

Exposed Roots – Gum disease or brushing too hard can cause gum recession. The roots are more sensitive to stimuli as they don’t have enamel protecting them. Cementum protects the part of the tooth under the gum, but it isn’t as hard as enamel.

Overuse of Teeth Whitening Products – If you use OTC teeth whitening products to excess, they can make your teeth sensitive.

Acidic Foods and Drinks – Consuming too many acidic foods and drinks can cause acid erosion of tooth enamel. Limit:

  • Wine
  • Soft drinks
  • Citrus beverages and fruits
  • Seltzer and other carbonated drinks
  • Tomato-based products
  • Fermented dairy products

Recent Dental Procedures – If you’ve recently had a dental filling or a crown placed, you could experience temporary sensitivity, but it should go away in a few days.

GERD – When you have chronic acid reflux, stomach acid comes in contact with your teeth and can cause erosion.

Tooth Sensitivity Treatments

Your dental professional can offer:
Instruction in Proper Dental Hygiene – A dentist or dental hygienist can show you how to brush and floss, so your teeth are clean, but your enamel is safe. You can also learn about which products, like mouthrinses, are safe to use as mouthrinses with alcohol can also cause sensitivity.

Dental Exams – A checkup with x-rays can detect cavities or fractures in your teeth that are allowing stimuli to reach the dentin. Your dentist may recommend a filling, bonding, or a crown to relieve the issue depending on its severity.

Replace Worn or Missing Fillings – Replacing a cracked or missing dental filling is a simple procedure that should eliminate your tooth sensitivity. It will also stop the cavity from getting larger.

Nightguards – While you ultimately want to get help for the reason(s) you grind your teeth, your dentist can provide you with a custom night guard to protect your teeth in the meantime. He or she can also check your fillings as bruxism can damage them. Your dentist will also offer suggestions for strengthening your tooth enamel.

Treatment for Receding Gums – If you have gum disease that has caused root exposure, your dentist can suggest the best way to treat it. He or she can also apply a sealant to the roots to block hot and cold sensations or perform a gum graft to replace the missing tissue and restore your smile’s appearance.

Fluoride Treatments – A professional fluoride treatment contains a high concentration of fluoride that can strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent sensitivity. It is usually a vanish painted on your teeth. You may not be able to eat or drink for several hours afterward.

Professional Teeth Whitening – If you’re overusing OTC teeth whitening products because you’re not getting the results you want, ask about a professional whitening procedure. It is safe because it is dentist supervised and you’ll see the dramatic results you are expecting. Your dentist can also create a custom teeth whitening kit for you to use at home if you prefer.

What’s the Best Thing to Do for Tooth Sensitivity?

While having sensitive teeth typically does not require an emergency dental visit, you show see your local dentist for an examination and diagnosis. If just one tooth is sensitive, the may indicate a cavity or other problem that needs attention before it gets worse.

You can try one of the desensitizing toothpastes available in drugstores. These stop sensitivity by blocking the tubes in the dentin. They can take weeks of continuous use to produce results, Unfortunately, they don’t fix the problem, just provide temporary relief. You can also get temporary relief from a warm saltwater rinse twice a day, but again, this does not solve the underlying problem.

The best thing you can do for teeth sensitivity to prevent it from starting. See your dentist for regular checkups, brush correctly and limit your intake of acidic foods and beverages. Use a straw to drink acidic beverages and wait a while before brushing your teeth. Instead, rinse your mouth with water. There are things can help eliminate the sudden jolts of pain that are common in individuals with sensitive teeth.

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Rye Smiles for Life

10614 Warwick Avenue, Ste A, Fairfax, VA 22030

(703) 565-2503