Tooth sensitivity is a major issue for many Americans. Typically caused by the erosion of enamel or exposed roots, sensitive teeth can make it painful for people to eat or drink items that are hot or cold. Tooth sensitivity can range from a mild annoyance to a persistent, painful problem. Thankfully there are some steps you can take to treat your tooth sensitivity but first you must identify what caused your tooth sensitivity in the first place otherwise the problem will just keep coming back.
Tooth Sensitivity Causes:
Sensitive teeth are typically caused by the erosion of enamel. Enamel is the thin outer coating of the tooth and is the hardest tissue in the human body. Enamel covers the exposed part of the tooth and protects the layers below such as dentin. Dentin is the layer located right beneath the enamel. It is a sensitive layer of living tissue that communicates with the nerve of the tooth. When the enamel is eroded and dentin becomes exposed, your teeth can become very sensitive.
The following are the most common tooth sensitivity causes.
- Over Brushing – brushing for too long and too vigorously
- Using Abrasive Toothpaste – many modern toothpastes have ingredients to scrub the surface of the teeth, these ingredients stip away tooth enamel.
- Acidic Diet – acidic food such as lemons/limes and acidic drinks such as soda and other carbonated beverages can wear away at your enamel overtime.
- Acid Reflux – enamel begins dissolving at a pH of 5.5, stomach acid has a pH of 2.0 meaning it’s very acidic. With the acidity of stomach acid, acid reflux can easily strip away your enamel overtime causing sensitive teeth.
- Bulimia – sufferers of this mental health issue engage in frequent purging (throwing up) causing the stomach acid to come in contact with teeth, quickly eroding the enamel.
- Teeth Whitening – the bleaching solution used in teeth whitening can remove mineral within the tooth enamel causing the teeth to become porous and sensitive. This is only a temporary side effect and should resolve within a few days to weeks of having your teeth whitened.
- Teeth Grinding – overtime grinding can cause tiny cracks in your tooth enamel exposing the dentin and creating sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
- Dry Mouth – saliva dilutes and neutralizes acids helping protect your enamel. When your body doesn’t create enough saliva (dry mouth) acids are free to linger and damage your enamel creating sensitivity.
- Receding Gums – in some cases sensitive teeth are caused by exposed roots. Weather receding gums are caused by aging or gum disease when it gets to the point where the roots become exposed you can experience extreme tooth sensitivity.
Tooth Sensitivity Treatment:
Thankfully those that are suffering from tooth sensitivity can find relief using one of the treatments below.
Change Behaviors: One of the best things you can do to treat tooth sensitivity is to identify what behaviors are contributing to your sensitivity and stop or reduce those behaviors. For example if you think you have been over brushing change to a soft bristle toothbrush, only brush for two minutes at a time, and think of brushing as more of a massage for your teeth rather than scrubbing. If you’re a soda or acidic food lover, remove these out of your diet as best you can and rinse your mouth with water after eating/drinking something acidic.
Desensitizing Toothpaste: These type of toothpastes contain compounds that help block sensations from traveling from the tooth surface to the nerves. The most well known example of desensitizing toothpaste is the brand Sensodyne.
Fluoride Gel: If desensitizing toothpastes don’t work you will most likely need an in office application of fluoride gel. These treatment works by applying fluoride gel/varnish to the sensitive teeth in your mouth. This fluoride treatment will help strengthen your enamel and dentin leading to less sensitivity.
Mouth Guard: If your sensitive teeth are caused by grinding your teeth at night a mouth guard can help. A mouth guard is worn while sleeping and protects your teeth from the pressure and damage caused by teeth grinding. Mouth guards can be highly effective in treating tooth sensitivity.
Gum Graft: If your sensitive teeth are caused be receding gums, from aging or gum disease, a surgical gum graft many be your best option to treat tooth sensitivity. A surgical gum graft will cover the exposed root of the tooth protecting it and reducing the sensitivity.
Root Canal: If all of the other measures above don’t work your dentist may recommend a root canal to eliminate sensitivity in extreme cases.
If you’re suffering from tooth sensitivity talk to your dentist about which treatment option is best for you and your teeth. To schedule an appointment for discuss tooth sensitivity with one of our dentists fill out our online contact form or give us a call at 202-919-6547.