Millions of people suffer from sensitive teeth, either permanently or on a temporary basis. People who experience tooth sensitivity will sometimes experience acute pain when their teeth and gums are exposed to certain temperatures or specific types of foods. In some cases tooth sensitivity can pose significant discomfort and it may also be an indication of other more serious underlying oral health conditions. It is important to understand the causes of tooth sensitivity, and how it can be controlled or overcome.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity occurs as a result of receding gum tissue exposing the “dentin” – the underlying layer of teeth. If this protective layer loses its coverage of tooth roots, thousands of tiny “tubules” which lead to the nerve center of the tooth known as the “pulp” become exposed, leading to heightened tooth sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity can occur for many reasons. Listed below are some of the reasons people experience tooth sensitivity:
Too much brushing and brushing too hard. It goes without saying that it’s important to brush your teeth regularly, but it is possible to brush too much or too hard – or both. If you brush using a hard-bristle toothbrush, or if you apply too much pressure, you could be brushing away your tooth enamel along with any food particles.
Teeth grinding. Teeth grinding can occur as a response to stress and also commonly occurs during sleep. Teeth grinding needs to be addressed because of the wear it creates on protective tooth enamel. Mouth guards provide a great solution to eliminate teeth grinding.
Gum recession. If gums move away from a tooth, a tooth’s root surface becomes exposed, leading to tooth sensitivity.
Gum disease – When gum disease is present, the gums often become inflamed and begin to separate from the teeth. As the gums recede due to inflammation, this leaves the roots of the teeth exposed and vulnerable.
Cracked teeth – Chipped or broken teeth may fill with bacteria from plaque and enter the pulp causing Inflammation.
Acidic food – Diets high in acidic foods are a common culprit in tooth sensitivity. On average our diets have become much more acidic over the last 50 years, causing more incidents of tooth sensitivity due to the corrosive long term effects of acidic foods on our teeth.
How to Prevent and Control Tooth Sensitivity
In order to prevent or control tooth sensitivity, people must take steps to protect and restore enamel and gum health. Those with sensitive teeth need to stick to a daily routine that includes brushing and flossing to remove harmful plaque, in addition to making other possible adjustments to their oral health routine.
Soft toothbrushes and dental floss. Those with sensitive teeth, should choose soft-bristle toothbrushes and soft dental floss. These products are designed to be gentler on the teeth and gums, reducing the risk of tooth enamel being worn away. It’s also important that brushing be done gently around the gum line so as to not cause further recession in the gums.
Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Choose toothpastes that are specifically formulated for sensitive teeth. These toothpastes are made from ingredients such as stannous fluoride and potassium nitrate, which will help keep your teeth enamel strong while providing a more comfortable brushing experience. Strong whitening toothpastes have been linked to worsening teeth sensitivity. If you are interested in using whitening toothpaste, make certain to choose one that is suitable for sensitive teeth.
Consider dietary modifications. People who consume a diet high in acidic foods may require modifying their diet in order to counter the effects of tooth sensitivity.
Visit your dentist. Having sensitive teeth may be a sign that you have a more serious underlying problem, such as gum disease. Your dentist can identify why you are having painful reactions, and where your roots are exposed. It is important to have these problems found and treated before more serious and painful dental conditions are able to develop.