Tooth sensitivity is usually caused by the exposure of the tooth’s underlying layer, called the dentin. There are hundreds of dentinal tubules, or small channels, found in the dentin that lead to the tooth’s nerve center. When these become exposed, it can cause pain upon consuming hot or cold foods and beverages or sugary sweets or even cause pain when patients brush their teeth.
A tooth’s dentin can become exposed and cause tooth sensitivity for a variety of reasons. Read on to find out about five of the most common of them.
Patients who have receding gums because of periodontal disease or another oral condition often experience increased tooth sensitivity as the surface of the root becomes exposed. Periodontal disease damages the gum tissue around the teeth, reducing the ability to support ligaments to attach to their roots. Gum disease can also cause pain because of inflammation and if left untreated, it can eventually cause tooth loss, so it’s worth visiting a Family Dentist to come up with a treatment plan as soon as possible.
Some over-the-counter mouthwashes can worsen tooth sensitivity. Those that contain acid will cause damage to the tooth’s dentin layer, causing additional dentinal tubules to become exposed and sending pain signals to the tooth’s nerve center.
Patients with sensitive teeth can ask their dentists about neutral fluoride mouthwashes designed to strengthen their teeth. This specialty product only needs to be used once per week.
Eating large amounts of acidic foods like citrus fruits, pickles, tomatoes, and certain types of tea can lead to enamel erosion, which exposes the dentin layer and causes sensitivity. This sensitivity isn’t always permanent, so patients experiencing increased symptoms may want to stay away from acidic foods for a few weeks. They may also want to avoid extreme temperatures and foods or beverages with lots of sugar until they address their sensitivity problems.
It’s common for patients to experience temporary tooth sensitivity following certain dental procedures, including teeth cleaning, tooth restoration, planing and scaling, and crown placement. Most dentists will recommend switching to a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth during the four to six weeks following these procedures. Patients who experience tooth sensitivity after having dental work performed should also avoid the foods and beverages discussed above.
Poor Oral Care
Poor oral hygiene can contribute to tooth sensitivity. Patients who are concerned about sensitive teeth should brush with a fluoridated toothpaste to protect and strengthen their enamel and should avoid aggressive brushing. Brushing too hard can wear down the enamel prematurely and cause gum recession, both of which will leave the dentin layer exposed and cause additional sensitivity problems.
Don’t forget to brush twice a day and floss once a day, but only use harsh whitening products if recommended by a dentist and be reasonably gentle. If patients are wearing down their toothbrushes every few weeks, chances are they’re also wearing down their enamel.
The Bottom Line
Some forms of tooth sensitivity, such as the feeling that patients get after certain dental procedures, are temporary, while others are ongoing. Patients who are experiencing tooth sensitivity for the first time should make appointments with their dentists to discuss treatment options and rule out the possibility of potentially serious underlying problems. Otherwise, good oral hygiene and avoiding sugary or acidic and excessively hot or cold foods and beverages is usually enough to keep tooth sensitivity at bay.