Does the idea of hot or cold food or drinks make you wince in anticipatory pain? Maybe even sweet or sour food – even wind – makes you nervous, knowing your teeth are not going to be happy? Tooth sensitivity is zero fun.
Having a tooth or teeth that are sensitive can result in anything from mild discomfort to searing pain. In any case, tooth sensitivity is not something anyone wants to deal with—especially on any kind of regular basis.
The first step to getting relief from tooth sensitivity is understanding what it is and potential causes.
Once you have figured out why you are having tooth sensitivity, it becomes much simpler to resolve those issues.
What Is Tooth Sensitivity?
The crown of your teeth (the area at the top, right below the gum line) is covered with enamel. The root area below the gum line is protected with cementum. Under both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. Dentin is less dense than both enamel and cementum. In the dentin are microscopic canals called dentin tubules.
When the enamel or cementum become damaged, the dentin is exposed. Likewise, gum disease or damage causes the dentin to be exposed as well. This allows fluid to flow through the tubules and creates a sensitivity to heat or cold.
Most Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Anything that causes the enamel or cementum to be damaged or wear away, can be a prime cause of tooth sensitivity. Examples include frequent or excessive consumption of acidic foods or drinks, brushing teeth aggressively, or overuse of tooth whitening products.
Additionally, a cracked tooth or filling can cause tooth sensitivity. Sometimes the crack can go all the way to the gum or in the case of a cracked or broken filling, leave the gums and root exposed. If this is the case, cold is most likely to provoke sensitivity.
Untreated or severe gum disease can be a risk factor too. If this has caused gum tissue to be pulled away from the root, your Milwaukee dentist may propose gum grafts to reduce the likelihood of future trauma.
Even age – and the receding of gums that can come after 40 – can be a problem. If you notice your gum line “shrinking”, this is something else you need to mention to your dentist
Taming Tooth Sensitivity
Of course, one of the first tips for avoiding tooth sensitivity is limiting your intake of all things acidic. This includes soda, sticky candy, and high-sugar carbohydrates. These acidic foods and drinks literally destroy enamel bit by bit.
Instead, stick to other tooth and enamel-friendly snacks like fiber-rich fruits and vegetables and dairy products like cheese and yogurt. These not only keep your mouth and gums moist, they even help fight or neutralize tooth-damaging acids. Sugar-free drinks like unsweetened tea and coffee, water of course, and sugar free gum are all safe bets. If you do indulge in acidic items, don’t be in a rush to brush. Your saliva will help to neutralize them.
Additionally, try not to grind your teeth. Grinding, too, wears away enamel over time. Luckily, there are mouth guards – over the counter and those custom-created in your dentist’s office – to help change this bad habit.
Furthermore, try to watch how hard you brush. Brushing that is too aggressive can be harmful to enamel and your gums. Similarly, watch the whitening toothpastes and bleach. While sensitivity caused from these products is usually short-lived and reversible, it can be painful.
In many of the above scenarios, desensitizing toothpastes may also be a helpful treatment. Some of them contain ingredients that help protect the tooth and build the enamel back up to help combat sensitivity. There are also fluoride gel treatments that can be done in your dentist’s office to build up enamel again too. Sealants and new fillings can be helpful as well.
If gum disease is a potential cause, an x-ray may be performed to determine if a root canal is necessary. A root canal removes the nerve, thereby ending the sensitivity.
No matter what, with tooth sensitivity, it’s important not to hesitate to visit the dentist because you’re afraid of more pain or being scolded for whatever caused the problem in the first place. An experienced and caring dentist will only look for ways to help solve the existing problem(s) and alleviate your pain. You just need to take the first step… come see us! We’ll take care of the rest!