sensitive teeth pain

What Causes Teeth Sensitivity?

Sensitive teeth can occur for different reasons, but it’s often the result of enamel loss. This can be due to poor dental hygiene, brushing too hard, or even gum disease. Your dentist is well-equipped to diagnose the cause of your tooth sensitivity, how to treat it, and how to ensure it never comes back.

In this article we’ll cover:

  • What causes teeth sensitivity?
  • Diagnosing sensitive teeth
  • Preventing sensitive teeth
  • Treatments for sensitive teeth

Tooth sensitivity isn’t something that you should just get used to. Keep reading to learn why it occurs and what you can do about it.

What Causes Teeth Sensitivity?

Many people experience tooth sensitivity. In fact, some people actually have more sensitive teeth than others. This is due to having naturally less enamel than most other people. However, this isn’t the case for the majority of people who experience pain when eating or drinking hot or cold.

Instead, their teeth sensitivity is due to a gradual wearing away of enamel over time. So what causes this gradual wearing away of the teeth’s enamel? It can be due to a variety of reasons or even a combination of them.

Gradual enamel loss can be the result of:

  • Brushing with hard bristles
  • Eating and drinking acidic foods and liquids
  • Brushing your teeth too hard
  • Gum recession due to gum disease
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Broken or chipped teeth

Sensitivity from enamel loss can even result from some medical conditions. For example, gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD for short, is when stomach acids come up through the esophagus. This can erode your enamel over time, resulting in increased sensitivity. Frequent vomiting from being sick or eating disorders such as bulimia can also contribute to enamel loss.

Sensitivity may also stem from recent or worn down dental work. New fillings, crowns, and bleaching may result in heightened teeth sensitivity. However, these effects are often limited to the tooth or teeth that were worked on and should be a temporary side effect. On the other hand, worn down dental work can expose the dentin of the tooth, causing sensitivity.

Whatever the cause of your sensitive teeth, your best option is to schedule an appointment with your dentist. They will be able to determine the cause of your sensitivity as well as develop a treatment plan to help get it back to normal. 

Diagnosing Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity can make everyday occurrences such as eating and drinking difficult. In extreme cases, even breathing in cold or hot air can cause pain. Sensitivity can manifest itself in different ways. For some, the pain may seem random with no pattern or noticeable cause. Others may feel it when their teeth come into contact with hot or cold substances.

People who experience teeth sensitivity can also differ on where the pain is located. While some may experience pain in multiple teeth in the top or bottom of their mouth (or both), others may only experience pain in one tooth. 

There can also be differences in the amount of pain experienced. For some, the pain can be sharp and fast while others may only experience a mild, dull ache. Pain from your tooth sensitivity can also be caused by chewing or biting down rather than from coming into contact with hot or cold substances.

Keep track of your symptoms before talking to your dentist about teeth sensitivity, since your symptoms will be essential for narrowing down the cause of your sensitivity. While enamel erosion is the common culprit for tooth sensitivity, problems such as receding gums, cracked teeth, and those requiring root canals may also be to blame. Your dentist will be able to locate the source of your sensitivity and treat it effectively.

Preventing Sensitive Teeth

One of the best things you can do for your teeth is to prevent them from becoming sensitive to begin with. To protect yourself from tooth sensitivity, start by protecting your enamel, the outermost surface of your teeth. This hard surface has been designed by nature to withstand whatever you put them through.

To avoid enamel erosion:

  • Brush gently
  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush
  • Eat a healthy diet with calcium and protein
  • Avoid acidic foods and beverages

Preventing teeth sensitivity also means keeping your gums healthy. Our gums naturally begin to recede after we turn 40. When our gums recede, the roots of your teeth become exposed. These roots don’t have enamel like the top parts of your teeth and are more prone to sensitivity.

Sometimes our gums begin to recede due to gum disease. This recession occurs when tartar buildup causes your gums to pull back, exposing the roots of your teeth and experiencing sensitivity.

Your best bet for preventing sensitivity is to follow a good oral health regimen. This includes:

  • Brushing for two minutes, twice per day
  • Flossing at least once per day, preferably after eating
  • Seeing your dentist every six months for checkups and cleanings

By following these tips, you will be doing everything you can to prevent sensitive teeth while also being able to catch small problems before they become major ones.

Treatments for Sensitive Teeth

If you’ve already developed sensitive teeth, there are certain things you and your dentist can do to help treat your symptoms. You can buy toothpastes and mouthwashes specifically made for sensitive teeth at your local drug store. Your dentist may also recommend trying fluoride gel to use at home to help alleviate your symptoms. 

Tooth sensitivity can occur due to cavities leaving exposed roots. In this case, your dentist may use fillings to cover the roots and prevent their exposure. Another solution may be dental sealants. This is a thin coating for your teeth which acts as a protective shield and prevents tooth decay. Your dentist will apply the sealant to prevent increased decay and sensitivity.

Some people have worn down enamel due to grinding their teeth, especially at night. This is a condition known as bruxism. If you grind your teeth at night, your dentist may recommend a mouthguard to help protect your teeth from enamel erosion.

Severe cases of sensitivity may require a root canal to fix the problem. While no one wants a root canal, it may be the only solution for some people. If anything, consider this a reason to brush, floss, and see your dentist regularly. Ignoring dental problems will only make them worse, so it’s best to address them as soon as possible. Scheduling regular teeth cleanings is a simple way to safeguard your oral health and protect yourself from developing teeth sensitivity.

Captains Way Dentistry has two locations in Knoxville to better serve you. You can call Captains Way West at (865) 691-1121 or you can schedule an appointment online. To make an appointment with Captains Way East, call (865) 544-1711 or make an appointment online.

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