Have you ever had ice cream or hot coffee and experienced pain in your teeth and/or mouth? If so, you are not alone. While the pain could be a sign of a cavity, it’s also common in people who have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is also known as dentin hypersensitivity. It is pain or discomfort in the teeth as a response to hot or cold temperatures.
Tooth sensitivity may be temporary or a chronic problem. It can affect one tooth, several teeth, or all your teeth. It can have a number of causes, but most cases are easily treated with a change in your oral hygiene regimen.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Some people naturally have more sensitive teeth than others because the enamel on their teeth is thinner. Enamel is the outer layer of the tooth that protects it. In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line, a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin.
Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules. When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.
Possible causes of sensitive teeth include:
- Brushing your teeth too hard or using a hard toothbrush
- Grinding your teeth at night
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Fractured teeth
- Worn fillings or tooth enamel
- Gum disease
- Exposed tooth root
- Acidic foods and beverages
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
Your teeth may be temporarily sensitive following dental work, including fillings, crowns, or teeth bleaching. This should subside after several days.
How is Tooth Sensitivity Treated?
Tooth sensitivity can be treated. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity.
Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:
- Use a soft toothbrush and brush more gently. Brushing too hard can damage your teeth and gums.
- Choose a toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth – Desensitizing toothpaste. It contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
- Choose an alcohol-free mouthwash, as it will be less irritating to sensitive teeth.
- An in-office visit for Fluoride gel. This technique strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
- A crown, inlay, or bonding may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in insensitivity.
- If gum tissue has been lost from the root, a surgical gum graft will protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
- If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend a root canal to eliminate the problem.
Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive tooth pain. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.
Having healthy teeth and gums is important to your overall well-being. At Webster Dental we make your health a priority. Our soft tissue management program focuses on preventing and treating gum disease (periodontal disease). Our soft tissue management program teaches you good dental hygiene you can use at home.
Call Webster Dental today at 630.663.0554. We are located at 1121 Warren Avenue, Suite 130, in Downers Grove, Illinois 60515. Our dental office is in the heart of downtown Downers Grove, close to the METRA train, restaurants, boutiques, and the Tivoli theatre. We are just minutes away from Interstates 88, 355, 55, 290, and 294.