Are you one of those people who cringes from discomfort or pain when you drink a hot beverage or bite into something cold like an apple or popsicle? If biting into ice cream and drinking coffee have turned into more painful experiences rather than enjoyable ones, you may be suffering with sensitive teeth.
Tooth sensitivity actually happens to be a fairly common problem, affecting one in eight adults. Sensitive teeth are easily treatable, but if left untreated, it can lead to more severe complications down the road. Symptoms of tooth sensitivity include a toothache like sharp and prevalent pain that worsens when the teeth are exposed, and pressure is put on them when drinking or eating hot or cold beverages.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Tooth sensitivity is not something you are born with, it is something that develops. It is important to understand the anatomy of our teeth in order to know why this condition occurs. The top layer of the teeth that you see is called the enamel, which normally has a white, glossy appearance. When the enamel is not taken care of, it can wear down, fade, or become stained, causing your teeth to turn into an unpleasant yellow color. Underneath the enamel is a soft layer called dentin, and under the dentin is where the pulp and nerves of the tooth live. As mentioned before, when the tooth is exposed, pressure is put on the tooth.
Due to the dentin being exposed, the teeth become vulnerable to feeling sensations, mostly a sharp uncomfortable pain, resembling a toothache. The dentin being exposed is mostly caused by either enamel erosion or receding gums, which can lead to periodontitis, or gum disease.
Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth, as mentioned before, may be very responsible for tooth sensitivity. If gum disease isn’t treated, gum tissues can separate from the teeth and form spaces called pockets that provide an opening for harmful bacteria to enter the mouth. Gum disease can progress until the bone and other tooth-supporting tissues are damaged, leaving the root surfaces of teeth exposed.
Oral health is extremely important, as your mouth can identify other complications, such as heart problems and stroke. Therefore, proper oral hygiene is essential in preventing tooth decay, gum disease, and sensitive teeth. Proper brushing and flossing is necessary to protect your teeth, but if you happen to brush your teeth incorrectly or too aggressively, you can also injure your gums and expose the roots and dentin of your teeth.
How Can Your Dentist Help?
To help with sensitive teeth, your dentist will recommend that you avoid consuming highly acidic foods and beverages, which can wear away enamel and cementum over time. Also, they will suggest brushing and flossing your teeth not too aggressively, along with using a softer toothbrush. Using toothpastes like Sensodyne can help provide relief and long-lasting protection for those with sensitive teeth. Whitening toothpastes and bleaching treatments may increase tooth sensitivity. Sensodyne toothpaste numbs the nerves in your teeth, putting a dental sealant over the dentin, to protect your teeth from feeling sensations of shooting pain when drinking or eating hot and cold items.
Regular dental checkups (at least twice a year) are a very important part of maintaining good oral health. During routine dental cleaning and exams, your dentist and/or dental hygienist can see any possible changes or deterioration, and offer you advice on how to avoid further damage.