Sensitive teeth are becoming a growing problem in the United States. The Academy of General Dentistry reports that 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth. If you are curious about tooth sensitivity and the causes and remedies, read on to learn more.
What is Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity occurs when your teeth feel pain or a “tingly” sensation when exposed to extremely hot or cold foods. Sometimes tooth sensitivity occurs when we take a breath of cold air or brush our teeth too roughly.
Sometimes tooth sensitivity is completely normal. For example, if you have recently had a dental crown or filling procedure performed on a tooth, that tooth will experience some sensitivity for a week or two afterward. Teeth are also naturally sensitive to extremely hot or cold foods, so it’s normal to wince occasionally when eating these foods. What isn’t normal is being unable to eat normal foods, brush your teeth, and experience discomfort when you aren’t eating.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
There are many things that cause sensitive teeth, but here are a few of the most common causes:
- Brushing Too Hard – If you are a little over-zealous during your brushing routine, you could be wearing down the enamel on your teeth. Over time, this can expose the softer tissue in your teeth, known as dentin. Dentin is directly connected to the tooth’s nerve center, so when the enamel wears away, the dentin is left exposed and vulnerable, causing sensitivity and pain.
- Acidic Foods & Beverages – One-third of 700 dentists surveyed by the Academy of General Dentistry say acidic foods and beverages are the most common contributors to tooth sensitivity. Acidic foods include berries, citrus fruits, ketchup, and acidic drinks (such as soda).
- Tooth Decay – Worn and leaky dental fillings, as well as broken teeth, exposes the tooth dentin, causing sensitivity.
- Teeth Grinding – Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, wears down the tooth enamel and causes sensitive teeth over time.
- Gingivitis – Gum disease and gingivitis cause the gums to recede, exposing the sensitive root area of the tooth.
- Frequent or Harsh Teeth Whitening – Teeth whitening works by allowing hydrogen peroxide to soak through the enamel of the tooth and remove stains. However, frequent and excessive exposure to the peroxide solution causes the enamel to break down, exposing the dentin. Teeth whitening is safe, and the sensitivity is usually temporary, but it’s important to be mindful of how often you are whitening your teeth.
Remedies for Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth can be managed in several ways, but it is important to talk with your dentist about it during your next visit. Sensitive teeth can be an indicator of a more complex dental problem which only your dentist can address.
Some of the remedies for sensitive teeth include:
- Good Dental Practices – Regular flossing, brushing gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and mouthwash helps to relieve sensitive teeth by keeping the enamel and teeth themselves strong and healthy.
- Sensitivity Toothpaste – There are some over-the-counter brands of toothpaste that have compounds in them that numb the pain receptors in the tooth, reducing sensitivity to certain foods. If you are still experiencing pain after using desensitizing toothpaste for 8 weeks, you need to see your dentist. These kinds of toothpaste only address the symptoms of tooth sensitivity, not the cause.
- Avoid Acidic Foods – By avoiding certain acidic foods, you protect your enamel and reduce the chance of feeling sensitivity.
Contact Park Avenue Dental for Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth are not a pleasant feeling, and we are here to help. While the remedies suggested will help to alleviate the symptoms of sensitive teeth, they do not address the root problem. Only a qualified dentist can determine the underlying cause and help to relieve your pain for good. Call us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your sensitive teeth.