Perhaps at one time, you were having a cup of coffee or enjoying an ice cream cone and experienced a sharp, agonizing pain in your teeth. You may have tried to drink or chew on the opposite side of your mouth to avoid feeling the same sensitivity. However, it is important to understand that tooth sensitivity is more than just a condition to treat. It may be a symptom indicative of a much more serious dental problem.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Primarily, tooth sensitivity is caused when the dentin – the underlying layer of the tooth – is exposed as a result of gum recession. This allows stimuli such as hot, cold, or sweet food to reach the tooth root and nerves, resulting in the familiar sharp, sudden pain.
Some factors that can contribute to the development of tooth sensitivity include:
- Brushing too hard – Brushing too hard or using a toothbrush with excessively stiff bristles can erode the enamel and expose the dentin. In some instances, overly vigorous brushing can cause gum tissue to recede.
- Gum disease – the inflammation of gum tissue – can cause the deterioration of gum tissue, exposing the root surface leading to underlying nerve tissue.
- Chipped or cracked teeth – Bacteria can fill the damaged area with bacteria-causing plaque, which can penetrate and inflame the pulp.
- Tooth whitening products – Toothpaste and other tooth whitening products containing baking soda and peroxide can also cause tooth sensitivity.
- Teeth grinding – Excessive teeth grinding or clenching can wear down tooth enamel, exposing the more sensitive tooth structures underneath.
- Age – Tooth sensitivity is greatest in people between 25 and 30 years of age.
- Acidic foods – Foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and tea have a high acid content and can erode the enamel if regularly consumed.
- Mouthwash – Some mouthwashes available over the counter contain acids that can cause sensitivity in teeth with an exposed dentin layer.
- Routine dental procedures – Recent dental procedures such as teeth cleaning, crown placement, root planning, and tooth restoration can cause temporary sensitivity that typically disappears within four to six weeks.
Relieving Tooth Sensitivity
Maintaining proper oral hygiene is key to reducing tooth sensitivity. Proper brushing and flossing combined with regular dental cleanings and check-ups can help reduce the build up of bacteria-causing plaque. Use a soft bristled toothbrush to lessen abrasion to the tooth surface; brush gently around the gum line to reduce irritation to the gums. Avoid eating highly acidic foods, which can, over time, erode the enamel and expose the underlying dentin layer. If sensitivity persists, talk to your dentist to determine if there are procedures that may help alleviate sensitivity.
Locate a Dentist near You
If you are suffering from tooth sensitivity, let DocShop help you locate a qualified dentist in your area. DocShop is an extensive patient education and referral website that can connect you with local dentists and provide you with information about their treatments and services.