Did you know that according to the Academy of General Dentistry, at least 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth in the United States? Though common, sensitive teeth are difficult to ignore. A sensitive smile can mean a sharp, wincing pain when your teeth are exposed to extreme temperatures. This can make patients avoid ice cream, coffee, citrus or even the cold wind outside due to dental pain. While sensitive teeth can be temporary and not always a cause for alarm, it should never be ignored. Sensitivity can be a warning sign that your oral health is in danger and something needs to be fixed.
What Makes a Tooth Sensitive?
While your teeth are covered with the strongest substance in the human body, they still have delicate nerves at their center. In fact, just below the strong enamel layer is the dentin layer. Dentin is a softer substance that has numerous microscopic tubules or pathways that lead to the pulp of the tooth. The pulp is where your tooth nerves reside. Therefore, anything that compromises the enamel of your tooth or the gum tissue that covers the tooth root can make your tooth more exposed and more sensitive to outside elements such as heat, cold and acidic substances. The result is often a flash of sharp pain deep within the tooth.
What Causes Exposed Dentin and Sensitive Teeth?
Now that we know the circumstance that can make a tooth sensitive, it is important to understand what causes the exposed dentin in the first place. This can vary from patient to patient, but determining the cause of sensitive teeth is critical to finding an effective solution. In most cases, your uncomfortable teeth can be treated and the sensitivity relieved.
The following are factors that can compromise your enamel and gums and cause teeth sensitivity:
- Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush
- Gum recession
- Cracked, chipped or fractured teeth
- Excessive teeth grinding or clenching
- Excessive or long-term use of acidic mouthwash
- Acidic foods
- Teeth whitening (not overseen by a dentist)
Ways to Solve a Sensitive Smile
As mentioned previously, your sensitive tooth or teeth will be fixed according to what is causing the pain. Some patients can find a remedy at home by using desensitizing toothpaste, a softer-bristled toothbrush or fluoride mouthwash. Avoiding acidic drinks and foods can also be important to prevent further sensitivity.
When sensitive teeth can’t be relieved on your own, you should enlist your dentist for professional help. Depending on the determined cause of your sensitive teeth, a dentist can offer the following treatments to restore comfort to your smile:
- Dental bonding
- Filling, inlays or crowns
- Fluoride gel or varnish
- Surgical gum graft
- Root canal therapy and crown
- Dental sealants for exposed tooth roots
- Mouthguard for nighttime bruxism
It is also smart to recognize if your sensitivity is getting worse or staying the same, as this can help guide your treatment plan. Enamel doesn’t grow back on its own, but there are effective ways to rebuild your outer tooth layer so that your tooth nerves stay protected.
Your Teeth Shouldn’t Hurt
Are you tired of drinking lukewarm coffee or declining ice cream with your family due to sensitive teeth? It may not be a condition you have to live with, and it may not be something that takes a costly procedure. Patients of all ages, ethnicities and gender are susceptible to enamel damage and gum issues that lead to sensitive teeth. If your smile is not comfortable, don’t dismiss it. It could be your teeth trying to tell you that there is infection, decay or tooth damage. While mild sensitivity is not cause for a dental emergency, if you experience sudden tooth pain of any kind without cause, please schedule a same day dental appointment. At Group Health Dental, we are equipped to fix sensitive teeth. We have talented dentists who strongly value the importance of a healthy and comfortable smile through all phases of life. Contact us today to learn more about treatment for sensitive teeth.