If you’ve ever bitten into something cold – for example, a popsicle – and winced because your teeth hurt, you may think that’s a natural reaction. However, you might actually be suffering from tooth sensitivity. It’s a common dental problem affecting at least 40 million adults in the U.S.
But it’s not just cold food that can cause sensitivity. Teeth exposed to sweet, acidic, or hot foods – or even cold air – can experience a sharp, sudden flash of pain. For some, merely brushing or flossing their teeth triggers the pain – which doesn’t last long, but is nonetheless an annoying condition that can be treated and improved.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth
The cause of sensitive teeth is related to tooth enamel or the gum line, both of which normally protect the underlying dentin of your teeth. If the enamel wears down or your gum line recedes, the dentin becomes exposed. Since the dentin is connected to nerves inside your teeth, the nerves can react painfully to cold, hot, or sweet substances.
Among the factors contributing to enamel reduction and sensitive teeth are:
- Aggressive brushing, particularly with a hard-bristled toothbrush
- Gum recession due to periodontal disease
- Gingivitis, the inflammation of gum tissue
- Cracked teeth filled with bacteria from plaque buildup
- Teeth grinding
- Long-term use of acidic mouthwash
- Acidic foods
- Over-the-counter teeth whitening treatments (as opposed to professional dental treatments)
Overcoming Teeth Sensitivity
While there is no single treatment for teeth sensitivity that works for everyone, you can try several at-home options and dental procedures to prevent tooth sensitivity from recurring.
Products to Use at Home
A softer-bristled toothbrush and a thin layer of fluoridated – but not tartar-control – desensitizing toothpaste can help. Fluoride helps strengthen enamel, which can reduce pain. Brush twice a day using gentle (not vigorous) strokes, and floss daily. A fluoridated mouthwash with little, if any, acidic ingredients can also help ease sensitivity.
Additionally, you can ask your dentist about wearing a mouth guard to prevent grinding your teeth when sleeping at night, which can eventually fracture teeth and cause sensitivity.
Refrain from eating and drinking acidic foods and beverages – such as carbonated sodas, citrus fruits, and wine – as much as possible. If you do drink acidic liquids, use a straw to limit their contact with your teeth. Or, drink water after eating or drinking an acidic substance to reduce the acid level in your mouth.
You can fix flawed or decayed teeth with bonding, crowns, or inlays. Applying a dental sealant, such as bonding resin, to exposed root surfaces can help treat tooth sensitivity.
Undergoing a surgical gum graft, in which a small amount of gum tissue is taken from elsewhere in your mouth and attached to the affected site, can protect exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.
If you are experiencing severe tooth pain or sensitivity that doesn’t respond to other treatments, your dentist may recommend a root canal. This procedure addresses problems in the dental pulp and is considered the most successful technique for eliminating tooth sensitivity.
Caring Family Dentistry in the Las Vegas Area
Whatever the cause of your tooth sensitivity, Dedicated Dental in Henderson, Nevada, can help. We specialize in family dentistry, diagnosing and treating all types of dental conditions.