Nearly everyone has felt an occasional twinge or ache of a sensitive tooth — but for some, tooth sensitivity is an ongoing problem. Sometimes simply identifying and stopping the triggering food or habit can help soothe the pain. In other cases, the sensitivity stems from a deeper problem that must be addressed by a dentist.
Here, Dr. Jerry Strauss of Aesthetic Dental Care reveals the common causes of tooth sensitivity. He also suggests some at-home fixes for alleviating discomfort.
What Causes Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity can be caused by any of the following:
- tooth decay
- worn tooth enamel
- worn fillings
- exposed tooth roots
- gum recession
- gum disease
- cracked tooth
The crowns of the teeth are covered in a strong, protective layer of enamel. The roots of the teeth (underneath the gum line) are covered in cementum. The layer just underneath the enamel and cementum is called dentin, and it contains small hollow tubes or canals. If the dentin loses its protective covering, the tiny tubes allow hot and cold temperatures, as well as acidic or sticky foods, to irritate the nerves inside the tooth. This is what leads to sensitivity and discomfort.
Tips for Reducing Sensitivity
Brush with Desensitizing Toothpaste
Look for a special desensitizing toothpaste at your drugstore. This kind of toothpaste helps to block sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve. It usually takes a few applications to start working and should be used consistently. Be sure to brush gently with a soft-bristled brush held at a 45-degree angle.
Avoid Acidic Foods and Beverages
Stay away from acidic, sticky, extremely hot or cold foods that can trigger tooth nerve pain. These include the following:
• other citrus fruits
• ice cream
• ice cubes
• sports drinks
• red wine
Avoid Clenching Your Teeth
Do you grind or clench when you’re stressed? These habits may wear away tooth enamel. Try yoga, meditation, regular exercise, therapy or other relaxation techniques. If you grind at night, look into a mouth guard to protect your teeth from damage as you sleep.
See Your Dentist
If at-home fixes don’t quell your tooth sensitivity, there may be a bigger dental problem at play. Schedule an appointment with your dentist to have your teeth examined. Depending on what your dentist finds, you may need an in-office treatment. This could involve a fluoride varnish, filling, crown, bonding, gum grafting or, in the most advanced cases, a root canal.
To learn more about the causes and treatment of sensitive teeth, please contact Dr. Jerry Strauss of Aesthetic Dental Care today.