Having sensitive teeth can be painful and frustrating. All you want to do is enjoy your favorite foods and drinks, only to find that it’s impossible to consume anything that’s too hot or cold because you experience severe pain. Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a variety of different conditions, some of which require immediate treatment and others that may not be as dire in nature. No matter what is causing your tooth sensitivity, there are treatment options available so that you can get back to living normally.
What is Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity can either be temporary or constant. Temporary tooth sensitivity is likely caused by worn enamel. When you eat or drink something that is either too hot or cold, it penetrates the dentin of the tooth, causing a reaction to the pulp, or nerve. If the sensitivity is constant, it may be a sign that there is something more problematic. A sensitivity that is specific to just one tooth could signal tooth decay and the need for either a filling or root canal. A sensitivity that is specific to just a few of your teeth could be a sign of gum recession, which exposes the vulnerable roots of the tooth.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
The causes of tooth sensitivity vary greatly, with some causes being more problematic than others. For example, a tooth that is sensitive because of severe tooth decay requires immediate treatment whereas a tooth that is sensitive because of worn enamel may be able to be treated using desensitizing agents and toothpaste. Some of the different causes of tooth sensitivity include:
Worn Enamel – Acidic foods and drinks as well as using harsh whitening products can eventually begin to wear down the protective layer of enamel from the teeth. This may cause the teeth to begin to look transparent when a light is shone behind them, but it also causes issues with sensitivity.
Gum Recession – As your gums recede, the soft tissue pulls back and exposes the vulnerable roots of one or more teeth. This can cause sensitivity as hot and cold liquids as well as harsh brushing to affect the exposed roots.
Cracks and Fractures – If a tooth has cracked or fractured, it exposes the inner pulp where the nerves are located. This allows cold and hot liquids to pour into the tooth, affecting the pulp (nerve) and causing severe pain and sensitivity.
Tooth Decay – Tooth decay causes the enamel and dentin to be infected and affected by bacteria. This bacterial decay continues to eat away at the tooth, causing issues with sensitivity and pain. As the decay gets worse, it is able to reach the pulp (or nerve) of the tooth, causing the need for a complete root canal.
Worn Fillings – Even if you have a filling in one or more of your teeth, this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily there for life. In fact, most fillings only last for a few years before they may crack, shrink or completely fall out. It’s not uncommon for someone to not even realize that one or more of their fillings has fallen out. As the filling shrinks and cracks, this causes the tooth underneath to become vulnerable to hot and cold liquids, causing issues with sensitivity.
Tooth Grinding – If you grind your teeth, you’re wearing down the surface of the tooth and causing the inner dentin to become exposed. Constant grinding can even cause the teeth to fracture and crack due to force. This can cause issues with sensitivity and cause pain throughout the day. Most people who grind their teeth do it at night while they’re sleeping when they’re not even aware of it.
Treatment for Tooth Sensitivity
There are many different options when it comes to treating tooth sensitivity. With an examination, a series of x-rays and a consultation, it can be determined what’s causing your tooth sensitivity and the best way to begin treating it. Common treatment options for sensitivity include:
If you’ve ever seen a product claim it’s for tooth sensitivity, this is due to it having a desensitizing agent that blocks the pain that you’re experiencing. These products may come in a gel application form, mouthwash and most commonly, toothpaste. With several applications of the product, you will notice a significant reduction in tooth sensitivity and pain.
A mouth guard can be worn at night while you’re sleeping to prevent bruxism, known as tooth grinding. This prevents wear and tear to your teeth and can diminish as well as prevent severe tooth sensitivity.
Dental Crowns or Extractions
If a tooth has broken or fractured, a dental crown can be placed over the area to protect the remaining tooth and prevent sensitivity. If the tooth has become severely cracked below the gum line or if you’d rather avoid more invasive dental options, an extraction can be done to completely remove the tooth.
Fillings and Root Canals
If the tooth that’s experiencing sensitivity has a cavity, this can be filled with a composite resin material. If the decay has been allowed to reach the pulp (nerve) of the tooth, a complete root canal is needed to remove the infected pulp.
Soft Tissue Graft
If gum recession is the cause of your tooth sensitivity, this can be remedied with a soft tissue graft. Most often, a small piece of tissue is removed from the palate of your mouth and used to cover the exposed roots. There are other grafting options available, such as the pinhole surgical technique for gum recession.
How to Avoid Dealing with Tooth Sensitivity
Most often, tooth sensitivity is caused by worn enamel. This can be prevented by avoiding drinking too many acidic, carbonated drinks and drinking through a straw to prevent direct contact with your teeth. Brushing using a soft-bristle toothbrush is essential for preventing too much wear to the enamel and can also help in preventing gum recession, which can be caused by aggressive, hard brushing techniques.
For men and women living in Syosset, NY, it is essential that you keep up with your dental appointments twice a year as well as seeking treatment if you begin to notice problems with sensitivity. In most cases, sensitivity is caused by worn enamel due to the foods and drinks you’re consuming as well as over-whitening your teeth. However, fractures, decay, deep cracks, and gum recession can also cause sensitivity and require immediate treatment.