Are you experiencing discomfort when you eat or drink certain foods? Does toothache keep you from enjoying a hot cup of coffee or a cold glass of water? Do you pass on sweets or acidic foods because they cause discomfort? Is this a daily problem or an occasional annoyance? If all these sound familiar, you may be suffering from dentin hypersensitivity or simply teeth sensitivity.
If you experience this on an occasional or frequent basis, you’re not alone. You can consider a small amount of dental sensitivity to be normal. If the pain is associated with daily activities such as drinking a cup of coffee, it can be a sign of bigger dental issues.
It would be the right time to get in touch with your dentist right away.
Let’s have a look at some of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity.
What is Sensitive Teeth?
Teeth sensitivity teeth is also known as Dentin Hypersensitivity. Its primary triggers are the consumption of acidic, hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks. Breathing cold air, brushing or flossing such teeth can also be a trigger.
A sudden, sharp, and sometimes blinding pain in a tooth that subsides is the most common symptom. It is a common dental problem that can develop over time due to enamel wear or gum recession.
Enamel is the protective outer layer of the tooth that protects its inner layer. When this protective layer of the enamel of your teeth wears down, it results in teeth sensitivity.
Cementum protects the roots below your gum line. Underneath the layers of enamel and cementum lies the dentin. Dentin is less dense than the protective coverings. The dentin contains microscopic canals known as dentin tubules. Dentin gets exposed when the enamel or cementum of your teeth wears away.
The recession of gums exposes the dentin. So when you are drinking something hot or cold, the fluid flows through the dentin tubules. This causes the nerves in your tooth to have sensitivity and pain.
The sensitivity can be a minor issue or a sign of a severe dental problem. It is always advisable to get the root cause diagnosed by a dentist. The sensitivity experienced during and post-professional whitening treatments is a different problem.
Pain Relief for Sensitive Teeth
Regular appointments for dental care are just as necessary as doctor appointments. This is true, especially if you experience consistent tooth pain after eating cold foods or beverages.
Finding the source of your sensitivity is vital to recommending treatment. Meanwhile, to ease the pain, there are some temporary remedies you can try until your next dental visit.
The most straightforward remedy of all is to rinse your mouth with saltwater. Salt is an effective antiseptic. It can help to reduce inflammation. To minimize pain symptoms you can gargle with a saltwater rinse twice daily.
Usage of desensitizing toothpaste is another popular option. Desensitizing toothpaste contains compounds that help in shielding the nerve endings from irritants. It contains potassium nitrate that blocks pain signals travelling from a nerve in your tooth. If you use it a few times, your sensitivity will reduce.
Dentists also recommend using a soft-bristle toothbrush and low-acid or fluoride mouth rinses.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
Enamel wear or recession of gums leads to teeth sensitivity. Some of the standard practices leading to sensitive are as follows:
1 Frequent vigorous brushing
If you are brushing your teeth frequently and vigorously with a hard-bristled toothbrush, then you are asking for trouble. It can lead to wearing down your tooth enamel.
This would expose your dentin layer and nerve endings. Eating or drinking cold or hot food and beverages can irritate these nerves. This causes sharp, intermittent pain.
2 Grinding your teeth
Some of us suffer from Bruxism or the disorder of grinding our teeth while sleeping. These patients often use dental night guards to prevent grinding of the teeth. This can wear down the tooth enamel. If it is not fixed, it can cause teeth sensitivity.
3 Gum disease
Regular brushing and flossing of teeth are required to remove plaque for the prevention of gum diseases. If it is not done, plaque starts to build upon your teeth or along the gumline.
Your gums will become infected and inflamed. This will eventually damage your gum tissue and cause your gums to recede. This will expose the nerve endings, and hence you will suffer from sensitivity.
4 Acidic foods
Your teeth enamel can wear off soon if you have acidic foods. This will expose the nerve endings. Some acidic foods include citrus fruits such as lemon, oranges, grapefruit and kiwi. It is advisable to consume acidic foods in moderation, especially if you develop sensitivity.
5 Frequent use of whitening products
No doubt, whitening toothpaste can give you pearly whites and a brighter smile. These whitening toothpastes contain chemicals that may be sensitive to your teeth.
The usage of these kinds of toothpaste regularly will cause discomfort and sensitivity. Moreover, mouthwashes with excessive alcohol can make teeth sensitive to cold.
Managing Sensitive Teeth
It is essential to think about managing your teeth that are sensitive both in the near and long term.
1 Daily Care for Sensitive Teeth
Are you wondering how best to care for teeth sensitivity?
Incorporating good habits into your daily oral health routine is the key. You must follow the following tips that would help you care for teeth that are sensitive.
2 Brush and Floss Regularly: Good oral hygiene helps in preventing conditions that can lead to sensitivity. One such condition is that of receding gums.
Don’t brush too hard or too often: Brushing aggressively or more frequently than your dentist recommends can contribute to gum recession. It would wear away your enamel. Over a while, receding gums and enamel loss will lead to exposed dentine and tooth sensitivity.
Use a softer toothbrush: A softer toothbrush can help to reduce the effects of aggressive brushing and help protect your enamel.
Use sensitivity toothpaste: Sensitivity toothpaste will provide daily relief when used twice a day.
3 Long Term Care for Sensitive Teeth
One of the most effective ways is brushing twice a day with a formulated sensitivity toothpaste with fluoride. It also helps to keep your teeth and gums healthy. But, there are other ways you can manage your sensitivity.
4 Don’t Skip Visits to the Dentist: Ensure you visit your dentist at least once in six months. This would help your dentist diagnose any dental issue at the beginning and prevent tooth loss.
5 Prevent teeth grinding: If you feel discomfort in your teeth when you wake up in the morning, then the chances are that you grind your teeth in sleep. If you are aware that you grind your teeth, you should consult your dentist about it.
Treating Sensitive Teeth
After discovering your teeth are sensitive, the next step is to enquire and know what you can do about it. Please discuss it with your dentist and try to find what has caused you to have this problem.
Your dentist will inform you what you can do to relieve it and help prevent it from getting worse. He will tell you about the most suitable oral care routine for someone with teeth sensitivity teeth. He will convey the best tooth brushing technique for you, how often and when.
You can relieve the sensation of tooth sensitivity by changing your regular toothpaste. You can switch to a daily use fluoride gel toothpaste formulated to care for teeth sensitivity.
Your dentist will also be able to decide if you need a corrective procedure after an examination. This could be a dental filling or a tooth extraction to relieve your pain.
If you face the following symptoms, contact your dentist immediately:
- Toothache lasting for more than two days
- Sharp or throbbing, aching pain that doesn’t subside
- Migraine headache which extends to your teeth
- Fever that coincides with your toothache.
Dental Procedures to Treat Sensitive Teeth
Several dental procedures can reduce your tooth sensitivity. Your dentist may apply a special resin to cover your exposed nerve endings. Once the exposed dentin is covered, it will stop your pain. Your dentist may suggest solutions like bonding, crown or an inlay depending on the case.
You may have gum disease and gum recession that has progressed to a chronic or advanced stage. In such a scenario, your dentist might suggest a surgical gum graft. The procedure will protect or cover your exposed roots.
1 Bonding or Desensitizing: The dentist applies bonding resin to your sensitive root surfaces. This will help treat your exposed tooth surfaces. You may be given local anesthesia if required.
2 Surgical gum graft: If your tooth root has lost gum tissue, your dentist will opt for a gum graft procedure. In this procedure, a small amount of gum tissue is taken from another part of your mouth. It is then attached to the affected site. This can protect your exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.
3 Root canal: Your dentist can also end sensitivity by filling your tooth cavity. A root canal treatment (RCT) can help to remove decay or infection from inside your problem tooth. Your dentist may recommend a root canal procedure.
In a scenario when other treatments are not effective, a RCT could be the best solution. The process will help treat problems in your tooth’s softcore or dental pulp. This is considered the most successful technique for eliminating tooth sensitivity.
No matter what may be the cause of your teeth being sensitive, the first step in treating them is to consult your dentist. They will help you get to the bottom of what’s causing your sensitivity. They will come up with a treatment plan that works for you.