If you feel a flash of pain in your gums or a sudden toothache when you eat something? It is likely that you have developed tooth sensitivity. Or that tooth is cracked or infected. So what causes sensitive teeth?
The good news is most causes of sudden tooth discomfort can easily be treatable by your dentist.
A recent survey has revealed that about 22 percent of adults have experienced teeth sensitivity the last six months. There could be many possible reasons why your teeth might be giving you pain.
If you have sensitive teeth, you will avoid eating cold foods or drinking hot beverages. In such a scenario, it is time for you to get to the bottom of this painful condition.
It could be due to a number of underlying dental problems. If you have any sensitivity to hot or cold food, speak with your dentist today. A diagnosis and treatment plan can only start after your dentist has examined your teeth.
What Is Tooth Sensitivity?
When the protective layers or the enamel of your teeth wears down, it results in a condition called tooth sensitivity.
The part of the teeth above your gum line or the crowns is covered with a layer of protective enamel. Enamel is the outer layer of the tooth that protects your inner layer. The roots below your gum line are protected with a material called cementum.
Underneath the layers of enamel and cementum is dentin. Which is less dense than the protective coverings. The dentin contains microscopic canals known as dentin tubules.
When the enamel or cementum of your teeth wears away, it exposes the dentin.
Your gums recede and expose the dentin of your teeth. These tubules allow external fluid to flow in them. These are then affected by heat and cold. Thus causing the nerves in your tooth to have sensitivity and pain.
Your tooth sensitivity can be a minor issue or indicate a serious dental problem. Your dentist can only diagnose your tooth sensitivity issue.
A dental examination can only help your doctor determine the underlying cause. The examination can help your dentist identify the most appropriate treatment to eliminate pain.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
Some of the common causes of tooth sensitivity may include:
Brushing your teeth vigorously with a hard-bristled toothbrush can gradually wear down your tooth enamel.
Worn tooth enamel will gradually expose the dentin layer of your teeth. As a result, the second layer gets exposed where the nerve endings are found.
Drinking or eating something hot or cold could irritate these nerves. This causes sharp, intermittent pain in your mouth.
Acidic foods are also dangerous as they wear down your tooth enamel and exposed nerve endings. Some acidic foods include lemon, oranges, grapefruit and kiwi. It is advisable to consume acidic foods in moderation, especially if you develop sensitivity.
Whitening toothpaste can give you a brighter smile. But you may be sensitive to chemicals in these whitening agents. Using whitening toothpaste regularly can cause discomfort and sensitivity.
Mouthwashes containing excessive alcohol can also make your teeth sensitive to cold.
You need to brush regularly, floss and clean your teeth to remove plaque and avoid gum disease. Once plaque starts to build upon your teeth or along the gumline. Your gums will become infected and inflamed. This can eventually damage your gum tissue. It will cause your gums to recede and expose the nerve endings.
If you have an untreated tooth decay, tooth cavity or a worn dental filling, it may also expose nerve endings thus creating sensitivity. And when exposed to cold, you may feel pain or sensitivity in the affected tooth.
Grinding your teeth
As some might have the disorder of grinding their teeth while sleeping can wear down the tooth enamel. This exposes the dentin in the long run. If not corrected initially, teeth grinding can cause sensitivity. Especially when you eat or drink something hot or cold.
When to See Your Doctor
If your teeth have become sensitive, try to make an appointment with your dentist at the earliest. Your dentist might be able to recommend a simple treatment like – sensitivity-reducing toothpaste.
If you face the following symptoms, contact your dentist immediately:
- toothache that lasts for more than two days
- throbbing or sharp, aching pain that doesn’t subside
- migraine headache that extends to your teeth
- fever that seems to coincide with your toothache
Ways to Treat Sensitive Teeth – At-home Treatments
You don’t have to live with sensitivity to hot or cold. You have different options available to completely eliminate sensitivity. Your treatment depends on the cause of sensitivity, which is why you should visit your dentist. A dental examination is a must. Discussed below are few treatments to stop pain and sensitivity:
In order to eliminate tooth sensitivity you might require dietary changes. This includes eliminating acidic foods from your diet as they can weaken your tooth enamel.
Healthier brushing habits
Changing your brushing habits can also eliminate sensitivity to hot or cold. Switch from a hard-bristled toothbrush to a soft-bristled toothbrush. Also, do not brush too vigorously as it would affect your enamel. To treat your sensitive teeth your dentist might suggest you to try desensitizing toothpaste.
Wear a mouthguard
Grinding your teeth while sleeping could lead to face pain, earache, headaches and a stiff jaw. Discuss with your dentist to see if you need a mouthguard.
A mouth guard prevents you from grinding your teeth at night. In case your enamel is worn, your dentist might recommend fluoride treatments or a fluoride paste to strengthen your enamel.
Your dentist could recommend a fluoride treatment in order to strengthen your tooth enamel. They might also give you a prescribed fluoride paste, fluoride gel and a fluoride rinse.
Use the paste to gently brush your teeth. If you have light bleeding while brushing it could be the sign of brushing too hard.
Dental Procedures to Treat Sensitive Teeth
There are several dental procedures that can alleviate your tooth sensitivity. Your doctor may apply a special resin to cover your exposed nerve endings. Once the exposed dentin is covered, it will stop your pain.
Whatever be the reason it is important to see your dentist and have the issue treated directly. The solution could involve bonding, a dental crown, or an inlay depending on the severity of your problem.
You could have gum disease and gum recession that has progressed to a chronic or advanced stage. Then your dentist might suggest a surgical gum graft. The procedure will protect or cover your exposed roots.
Bonding or Desensitizing
Bonding resin is applied to your sensitive root surfaces. This will help treat your exposed tooth surfaces.
Your dentist might use a local anesthesia if needed.
Surgical gum graft. If your tooth root has lost gum tissue, your dentist will opt for a gum graft procedure. a small amount of gum tissue can be taken from another part of your mouth. And then attached to the affected site. This can protect your exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.
Root canal. Your dentist can also eliminate sensitivity by filling your tooth cavity. A root canal treatment can help to remove decay or infection from inside your problem tooth.
If your sensitive teeth cause severe pain your dentist might recommend a root canal procedure. In a scenario when other treatments are not effective a RCT could be the best solution.
The procedure will help treat problems in your tooth’s softcore or dental pulp.
This is considered the most successful technique for eliminating tooth sensitivity.
Sensitive Teeth and Age
You could have sensitive teeth at any age. According to research, adults aged 20 to 50 years are most likely to report sensitive teeth.
The maximum reports of dentin hypersensitivity are seen in patients aged 30 to 40 years. The exact reason for this is unknown. But it relates to the fact that your physical structure of the tooth changes during this age.
However, older people are more likely to have receding gums. One the main causes of sensitive teeth. Sometimes the underlying issue is wear and tear on your tooth enamel, which occurs over time.
Prevention and Outlook for Sensitive Teeth
With proper treatment you can completely get rid of sensitivity. You need to discuss in detail with your dentist. Keep in mind that tooth sensitivity may return if you don’t modify your dental habits.
In order to avoid future problems, you should continue to practice good dental hygiene or oral health. This includes brushing and flossing daily, and regular scheduled dental cleaning every six months. With proper dental care your teeth and gums can stay healthy throughout your life Also, limit acidic foods and use teeth whitening products sparingly.