Tooth Sensitivity: What it Means and What You Can Do

Tooth SensitivityYou’re eating a scoop of ice cream or sipping hot chocolate, and suddenly your tooth hurts. Or maybe brushing your teeth makes you wince. These are common symptoms of tooth sensitivity, one of the most common complaints among dental patients. In fact over 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth at some point. This blog will help you understand just what this common problem is and what the cause may be.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin (the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel that contains the inner pulp), which results in nerve irritation. When the hard enamel is worn down or if your gums have receded, the tiny tube surfaces become exposed so that eating or drinking cold or hot food or beverages, touching the teeth, or exposing them to cold air can be uncomfortable. Dental issues that may cause tooth sensitivity include: tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, worn tooth enamel, and an exposed tooth root. Excessive consumption of foods and drinks high in acid content, such as soft drinks or citrus juices, can also put you at risk for tooth sensitivity. Acid reflux may also result in the erosion of tooth enamel due to acid coating the teeth.

Treatment. If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days, it is best to see your dentist to diagnose the cause of your discomfort. We have a variety of options to manage tooth sensitivity, including in-office treatments and products you use at home. We may apply a desensitizing agent or a protective coating to your teeth. Or we may prescribe a fluoride gel or over the counter desensitizing toothpaste, which contains fluoride and potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These ingredients help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve. It is also best to avoid using hard bristled tooth brushes that can wear down tooth enamel and expose sensitive areas.

It is important for us to accurately diagnose the cause of your tooth sensitivity for accurate treatment. Sometimes a damaged tooth may require a filling, bonding, or even root canal if the decay is severe.   Proper dental hygiene is the best way to prevent tooth pain and sensitivity. Please let us know if you have any areas of your mouth that experience sensitivity or if you have any questions abut your dental health.