There are many reasons why a person can have sensitive teeth. Any kind of tooth pain is difficult to handle, but when it occurs on a regular basis, it can seriously affect your quality of life. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, you know the frustration of limiting the food you eat based on temperature, hardness, stickiness, and other factors. Depending on what is causing the tooth sensitivity, there are several ways to deal with this problem.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, approximately 40 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of tooth sensitivity, including discomfort and/or pain. Tooth sensitivity often occurs as a sharp and sudden pain that only lasts for a few moments. The good news is that tooth sensitivity can be diagnosed and treated fairly easily. Here, Flintlock Dental will take a look at some of the causes of tooth sensitivity and the ways that it can be treated.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity can happen to anyone, and there's no specific at-risk group of people who tend to experience it more often than others. It’s often a sudden and sharp pain that goes away just as suddenly. The immediate cause of the pain can be from a number of factors, such as the teeth being exposed to air, acidic foods, cold or hot foods, or overly sweet foods. The pain can even come from simply brushing or flossing the teeth.
But why does this tooth sensitivity occur? If the hard outer layer on your teeth (enamel) is worn down, it leaves the softer layer beneath (dentin) exposed. When the dentin is exposed, it often leads to tooth sensitivity. Problems like cracked teeth, cavities, a receding gum line, and root erosion are other dental issues that can leave that soft layer of dentin exposed. Here’s a short list of some other reasons why you might be experiencing some tooth sensitivity:
- Brushing or flossing too hard.
- Overuse of mouth wash.
- Plaque buildup.
- Recent dental procedure.
- Teeth grinding or clenching of the teeth.
- Inflamed or sore gums due to gingivitis.
Whatever the reason, if you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, you should go in for a dental checkup. Your dentist can help make sure that there are no underlying problems that need to be solved by a professional.
Tooth Sensitivity from Dental Work
If you’ve recently had some type of dental work done, it’s very likely that you will experience some level of tooth sensitivity. This is especially true for drill work, such as cavity fillings and root canals. If there is extensive tooth decay, it can make tooth sensitivity even worse. The decay that causes cavities also leads to tooth sensitivity, as does the procedure to have them filled. Tooth sensitivity after a filling or other dental procedure should ease after a couple of weeks of recovery. If it lasts longer than that or is extremely painful, consult with your dentist to see if there is a lasting problem that can be fixed.
Use a Desensitizing Toothpaste
Getting an over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste can help lessen the pain of tooth sensitivity within a couple of weeks of use. You will need to use the toothpaste twice daily (or as your dentist recommends), as it has a compound that can help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve. If you have an extra sensitive area, you can apply extra toothpaste directly to that tooth to see if it helps relieve the pain in that area.
Avoid Acidic Foods and Drinks
If you’re experiencing any type of tooth sensitivity, you should avoid consuming overly acidic foods and drinks. The acid will wear away your tooth enamel, leaving the nerves exposed and causing your teeth to be more prone to decay. Drinking a lot of soda and citrus fruit juice can cause tooth sensitivity, even if you didn’t have any before. Not only does the acid wear away at your enamel, but the sugars also feed the bacteria that cause dental decay.
Drinks are particularly harmful to your teeth, since the liquid easily spreads between the teeth, and people often sip at them throughout the day. If you do enjoy acidic and sugary drinks, make sure to drink them relatively quickly during mealtimes and rinse your mouth out afterwards with water. You also need to wait about 30 minutes after consuming such a beverage or acidic food to brush your teeth, as your enamel becomes weakened from the acid.
Use a Soft Bristle Brush
When picking out a toothbrush, it’s usually best to go with soft bristles. Although medium or hard bristles can scrape off plaque more easily, they also do more damage to your gums and enamel, causing more problems than they solve. If you’re having problems with tooth sensitivity, consider using a toothbrush with extra soft bristles for even gentler brushing.
Beware of Tooth Whiteners
Attempting to make your teeth picture-perfect and sparkly white can often be the root of your tooth sensitivity. Using an over-the-counter tooth whitening product and even some tooth whitening procedures done by professionals can cause you to have some tooth sensitivity. Many whitening techniques work by scraping off the outer layers of the tooth, including some enamel. One of the worst culprits is charcoal toothpaste. If you want to avoid tooth sensitivity while whitening your teeth, discuss your options with your dentist to see what procedure is right for you.
While there are many common causes for tooth sensitivity, such as drinking too many acidic beverages or having a cavity filled, there can sometimes be bigger underlying causes for that sudden shooting pain. If you have some mild sensitivity after a dental procedure, give it a few weeks before worrying too much. If you’ve tried using desensitizing toothpaste and cutting out overly acidic foods, but you still have some tooth pain, get in to see your dentist to make sure that there’s nothing more serious going on with your teeth and gums. Keep track of the pain and note when it happens and how long it sticks around to give your dentist more information to help with the diagnosis.