Tooth Sensitivity: Causes and Treatments

Sensitive teeth can make brushing, eating, and drinking unpleasant and even painful. Sensitive teeth are usually a sign that the enamel of your teeth is worn or that the roots of your teeth are exposed. Tooth sensitivity can also be caused by other factors as well, including cavities, cracked or chipped teeth, worn fillings, or gum disease.

Enamel protects the underlying layer of dentin in healthy teeth, and tooth roots are protected by the gums. When the enamel gets worn down or the gum line recedes, dentin and tooth roots can become exposed. Dentin, which is softer than enamel, connects to the nerves that trigger pain in sensitive teeth. When exposed, dentin allows hot, cold, acidic or even sticky substances to trigger the nerves inside the tooth, causing pain.

If you suffer from sensitive teeth, talk to your dentist. He or she can determine if underlying causes may be contributing to your tooth pain. Depending on the results of examination, your dentist might recommend:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste. Desensitizing toothpaste can reduce the pain associated with sensitive teeth. Ask your dentist about over the counter products that might work for you.
  • Fluoride. Your dentist can apply fluoride to your teeth to strengthen tooth enamel. He or she might also prescribe a fluoride treatment for you to use at home.
  • Bonding. In some cases, exposed roots can be treated by applying bonding resin to sensitive root surfaces.
  • Surgical gum graft. If you have begun to lose gum tissue, tissue from elsewhere in your mouth can be grafted to the affected area to protect exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.

Prevent the recurrence of sensitivity by brushing your teeth twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Avoid harsh scrubbing, and don’t use abrasive toothpaste when you brush. Many patients grind or clench their teeth, which can lead to tooth fractures and increased sensitivity. Your dentist can check for signs of grinding and clenching and may suggest a mouth guard.

Changing your eating and drinking habits can also help reduce sensitivity. Eating or drinking acidic foods and drinks including soda, citrus fruits and wine can erode the enamel of your teeth over time. Try using a straw when you drink acidic liquids to limit contact with your teeth. Drinking lots of water to rinse your mouth or brushing your teeth after eating can help remove acids and prevent acid erosion.

If you are experiencing sensitivity or pain, contact us as soon as possible so that we can rule out serious conditions like cavities, infection, or cracked teeth. We want you to have a comfortable, healthy, happy mouth!