It’s no fun to be take a sip of a cold drink and OUCH! You feel pain in your teeth. This happens when you experience tooth sensitivity, which can be caused by many things. The good news is, there are ways you and your dentist can treat it.
What Is Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is a common name for hypersensitivity in the layer of the tooth that protects the nerve (called the dentin) or sensitivity of the part of the tooth that is embedded in the bone (the root). It occurs when these dentin or root areas become exposed because of receding gums or gum disease. Tooth sensitivity is very common, and it can come and go over time.
When you experience tooth sensitivity, you may experience pain with hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
The crowns of your teeth are covered with a hard layer of enamel, the hardest and most mineralized substance in the body, which covers the layer of dentin underneath. However, a special, softer substance called cementum covers the root of a tooth. If that area is exposed and the cementum is worn away, it leaves the dentin of the root exposed, which can be painful because of the thousands of tiny channels that run from the surface and through the dentin to the nerve center of the tooth.
There are many things that can cause the enamel or cementum to wear away and the dentin to become exposed, including:
- Brushing teeth too vigorously
- Using a very abrasive toothpaste, typically those that are considered tooth-whitening
- A highly acidic diet (soda, citrus fruit, pickles)
- Eating disorders such as bulimia and digestive diseases such as GERD
- Bruxism (tooth grinding)
- Receding gums due to age or poor oral hygiene
- An excessive build-up of plaque that causes enamel to wear away
- Chipped or cracked teeth
- Decay around fillings
Treating Tooth Sensitivity
The most important thing is alert your Enlighten Dental Care dentist or hygienist about tooth sensitivity, so that the cause of your pain can be determined. Based on that assessment, you may receive the following recommendations for treatment.
- Use a desensitizing toothpaste.
- Decrease your intake of acidic foods and drinks
- Improve dental hygiene with better brushing and daily flossing, while avoiding brushing too vigorously.
- A dental mouth guard for teeth grinding.
- Have fluoride applied to the sensitive areas to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain.
- Treatment of exposed root surfaces by applying a bonding resin.
- A surgical gum graft if the tooth root has lost gum tissue.
If other treatment has not worked and you are in severe pain, a root canal may be the best, most effective option for treating the sensitivity. For more information and to set up an appointment, contact Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.