Sensitive Teeth: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Woman holding her cheek in pain

Does an ice-cold glass of water or a hot cup of coffee make you wince in pain? Or how about when you’re brushing and flossing…do you get a sudden surge of pain? Many people experience a condition that is known as sensitive teeth. There are many reasons for sensitive teeth, ranging from damaged enamel to cavities.

Tooth sensitivity includes mouth pain after eating sweet/sour and hot/cold foods and liquids. Often, teeth sensitivity is a reaction to temperature as well. If you breathe in hot or cold air, chew on ice, or chew gum, tooth sensitivity is also likely. You may also notice discoloration in your teeth, a receding gum line, or other dental issues that may be an indirect cause of tooth pain. Flossing, brushing, and rinsing are also painful activities when you have sensitive teeth.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Major causes of sensitive teeth include:

  • Cavitation
  • Damaged crown or bridge
  • Damaged Fillings
  • Gum Disease
  • Enamel Erosion

Cavities are among the leading causes of tooth sensitivity. If a sensitive tooth is not responding to specialized toothpaste, the root of your tooth may be exposed, creating pain. Visiting your dentist can help diagnose a hard-to-see cavity, getting you a treatment that will help alleviate your pain.

Another common cause of sensitive teeth is either damaged fillings or faulty dental work. Oftentimes, an older crown or filling may not perfectly fit, meaning that your tooth root is exposed. Another common problem is that your root canal filling may have become dislodged. This will cause the interior of your tooth to be exposed. Visiting our dentists will help treat damaged fillings, as well as existing crowns and bridges.

Gum disease and enamel erosion are common problems, leading to sensitive teeth. Gum disease damages the protective layer of the tooth roots, known as cementum. When your enamel and cementum are damaged, food particles and liquid can get into the thin, hollow tubules that permeate your tooth dentin.

Treating Sensitive Teeth

Your dentist can provide several treatments that help remedy painful teeth. Treatment options include:

  • Special Desensitizing Toothpaste: Blocks nerve sensations from the tooth surface to the pulpy tooth interior.
  • In-Office Fluoride Treatments: Specialized treatment, in the clinic, that restores tooth enamel and stops the transmission of pain.
  • Crown, Filling, or Bonding: These treatments can fill or cover a cavity completely, and often happen in tandem with a root canal, reducing your dental pain for the long term.
  • Soft-Tissue Grafting in Mouth: For lost gum tissue, surgical gum grafts are possible to reduce exposed tooth roots.

Cosmetic dentistry may also be considered when treating sensitive teeth. If your current dental work has been damaged, or decay has become visible around previous dental work, including a cosmetic solution will often restore both form and function to a tooth’s structure, ultimately relieving painful sensitivity.

Good Prevention

One of the surest ways to prevent conditions that can cause sensitive teeth is to practice good oral hygiene. For the best dental hygiene, most dentists recommend:

  • Brushing for at least two minutes.
  • Brushing circularly, sweeping the side of the teeth, and brushing along the gum lines.
  • Use an 18-inch piece of floss wrapped securely around your fingers.
  • Moving the floss up and down, making a C-shape against the tooth to remove plaque and food buildup.

You may also want to purchase a mouth rinse. Many mouth rinses contain sodium fluoride, as an anti-cavity, as well as other solutions that fully sanitize the mouth. Regular dental checkups are also necessary to prevent cavities and enamel erosion, common causes of sensitive teeth.

Getting In for a Checkup

Getting into your dental clinic for your biannual cleanings will go a long way toward alleviating tooth pain. For sensitive teeth, fluoride treatment can help protect your enamel. Cavities can also be caught before they are a problem. Your dentist can also inspect your existing fillings and dental work, making sure that these aren’t contributing to your sensitive teeth.

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