How many of you avoid favorite foods like ice cream or hot coffee because of pain from sensitive teeth?
If this describes you, you might be comforted knowing you’re not alone. 57% of Americans admit to having sensitive teeth, and that percentage only increases as you ask older Americans.
The twinges of pain deep in the tooth that can take your breath away need to be evaluated to determine their cause before a treatment can be started. Keep reading as we break down common causes of tooth sensitivity and outline their cures!
What does it feel like?
If you have teeth that are sensitive to temperature, like when bite into ice or feel the familiar pang when you sip soup, then you are no stranger to the pain. For those lucky enough to have never felt it, tooth sensitivity is commonly described sudden twinge or shock of pain in the teeth. The American Academy of Endodontists describes tooth sensitivity as a brief sensation caused by a stimulus, such as heat or cold, to exposed dentin (the layer beneath the hard, white enamel of the teeth). When dentin loses its protective covering, the nerves within the teeth lose their buffer. When the nerve is stimulated, you feel pain.
What causes sensitive teeth?
To determine the cause of the pain, your dentist will conduct an oral exam to examine enamel levels and look out for more serious issues like cavities or tooth decay. Common causes of tooth sensitivity include:
- Diet: Diets high in acid or if you’re commonly chewing hard foods like candies or ice can cause harm to your teeth. Foods like these attack the enamel on the tooth, wearing away the protective layer. And once that layer is gone, it’s gone forever.
- Chewing ice: Chomping down on ice is horrible for your teeth. Not only can the ice wear away enamel, but it can also crack your teeth.
- Brushing too hard: Brushing your teeth is incredibly important, but brushing them incorrectly can actually cause damage. Side-to-side brushing right at the gum line can make your enamel go away faster. You should use a soft-bristled brush and work at a 45-degree angle to your gum to keep enamel clean and strong.
- Tooth whitening: Tooth sensitivity is a common side effect of tooth whitening, especially those over-the-counter products. The pain results from using overly harsh whitening products or from whitening teeth too frequently.
- Tooth decay: Cavities eat away at the enamel, which causes nerve exposure and pain. This is why it’s extra important to get your bi-annual cleaning to check for problems!
What can be done to cure tooth sensitivity?
The most important thing you can do to avoid tooth sensitivity is take care of your tooth enamel. One it’s gone, it’s gone, and there are many dental problems associated with a lack of tooth enamel. The easiest ways to cure and prevent tooth density are:
- Unclench your teeth: Teeth grinding can lead to enamel and tooth erosion. If your teeth grinding is severe, your dentist can fit you for a mouth guard to wear at night.
- No whitening: Take a break from tooth whitening. When you are ready to try again, make sure you’re following all the directions and aren’t over-bleaching.
- Check for gum disease: Plaque and tartar buildup can cause the gums to pull back from the teeth and expose the dentin.
- Use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- Get any cavities filled
Tooth sensitivity can be debilitating. If you are suffering from pain that causes you to avoid favorite foods, give your dentist a call today for an exam!
Also published on Medium.