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Your Sensitive Teeth: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention


Sensitive Teeth

It’s a common dental concern: you take a bite of ice cream and immediately experience a sharp pain in one or more teeth. The likely culprit, teeth sensitivity, is caused when dentin is exposed. In a healthy mouth, a layer of enamel protects the teeth above the gum line. Another layer, known as cementum, protects the roots under the gum line. Under these protective layers is dentin, which contains tiny tubes leading to the teeth’s nerve center. When dentin is exposed, then, certain food and drinks– typically those that are hot, cold, sweet, or sour– reach the nerve center via the microscopic tubes in dentin. The end result is teeth sensitivity, and that shooting pain you feel when you take a sip of hot coffee.

Other causes of teeth sensitivity

In addition to the gums pulling back to expose the dentin, there are some other potential causes of teeth sensitivity, including:

  • Bruxism. Bruxism– or teeth grinding and clenching– can occur during the day or during sleep at night. Sometimes, patients are unaware that they suffer from bruxism. Chronic bruxism, however, can result in teeth sensitivity, due to a gradual wearing down of the enamel.
  • Aggressive brushing. Brushing your teeth aggressively– and particularly with a hard-bristled toothbrush– can wear down your enamel, leaving the dentin exposed.
  • Periodontal disease. Gums that are inflamed and diseased can pull back, leaving the roots of your teeth exposed. The end result, of course, is increased sensitivity.
  • Decay. Tooth decay– and particularly decay located near the gum line– is a common cause of teeth sensitivity.
  • Tooth whitening products. For some people, tooth whitening products can result in increased sensitivity. This is often due to two factors: the hydrogen peroxide contained in most at-home whitening kits, and application time. Hydrogen peroxide is known to cause sensitivity in some people, and the longer the application process, the more likely sensitivity is to occur.

Treatment and prevention

Fortunately, there are several treatment options available for patients suffering from teeth sensitivity. Which treatment option your dentist chooses will be determined by the cause of your sensitivity. Some potential treatments include:

  • Special toothpaste. There are many brands of toothpastes specially formulated for sensitive teeth. You may have to try a few before you find the most effective one for your needs.
  • Fluoride gel. Your dentist may recommend a fluoride gel, which is used to strengthen the enamel. This is typically done in your dentist’s office.
  • A dental crown or bonding. If your sensitivity is the result of decay or a flaw in your teeth, your dentist might recommend a dental crown or bonding to help treat your sensitivity.
  • Root canal. Sometimes, when sensitivity is severe and other treatment methods have failed, a root canal is necessary to eliminate the problem.
  • Mouth guard. If your sensitivity is the result of bruxism, your dentist might recommend a dental guard– which can be worn during the day or at night– to help control your clenching and grinding.

Additionally, there are ways you can help prevent and control teeth sensitivity from the comfort of your own home:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoridated toothpaste can go a long way towards protecting your teeth from many oral health concerns– including sensitivity.
  • Be mindful of your diet. Staying away from foods and beverages with high acidity can help prevent the wearing away of your protective enamel.
  • Use a fluoridated mouth wash. Fluoridated mouth rinses, when used daily, are known to help decrease sensitivity.

For more information about teeth sensitivity and available treatment options, contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you!

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