Teeth sensitivity can occur when you consume cold, hot, sour, or sweet foods and drinks. You may experience a sharp and sudden pain that shoots deep into tooth nerve endings. Statistics reveal that one out of every eight Americans suffer from teeth sensitivity, also known as dentinal hypersensitivity.
What exactly is teeth sensitivity?
Teeth sensitivity occurs when dentin, the underlying layer of your teeth, becomes exposed. This can occur due to various reasons, including erosion and gum recession, i.e., when the gum tissue pulls away from your teeth.
Teeth roots, which are not covered by enamel, contain hundreds of tiny tubules or channels leading to the pulp. These channels allow cold, hot, sweet, or sour food to reach the tooth nerve. This results in sharp pain. Teeth sensitivity can also be a symptom of dental problems such as gum disease, cracked teeth, and cavities.
Teeth sensitivity can be a temporary or a chronic problem and can affect one, several, or all teeth.
Causes of teeth sensitivity
Wrong brushing techniques
Using a hard-bristled brush or brushing too hard can wear down the tooth enamel and cause the dentin to be exposed. This can cause teeth sensitivity.
An acidic or high-sugar diet
Consuming sugary or acidic foods and drinks such as coffee, soda, candy, and refined carbohydrates can erode tooth enamel. This can make the dentin more vulnerable and cause sensitivity.
Some people grind or clench their teeth on a regular basis. Over time, teeth grinding can wear down tooth enamel and leave the dentin exposed.
Gum recession usually develops as a result of periodontal disease. In some cases, the patient is more genetically prone to having thin gum tissue. The tissue pulls away from the teeth and exposes the roots.
Certain health conditions
Some health conditions, such as Gastroesophageal Reflex (GERD) can cause acid to come up from the stomach and esophagus to the mouth. This can wear down teeth over time. Some other conditions that cause frequent vomiting, such as bulimia and gastroparesis, can cause acid to erode the enamel.
Dental decay, chipped teeth, broken teeth, and worn-down tooth fillings can leave the dentin exposed, causing teeth sensitivity. When a broken or chipped tooth is responsible for sensitivity, you will feel sensitivity in a particular tooth or a region in the mouth.
Temporary teeth sensitivity
Certain dental treatments such as teeth whitening, crowns, and dental fillings can cause temporary sensitivity. Sensitivity is limited to only the treated tooth or to the teeth surrounding it. It usually goes away on its own in a few days.
Teeth whitening products
Over-the-counter teeth whitening products often cause teeth sensitivity. If you want to whiten your teeth and brighten your smile, speak to your dentist about possible treatment options for sensitive teeth.
Acidic mouthwash use
Many over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acids that can damage the dentin layer and aggravate sensitivity in people with already exposed dentin.
A buildup of plaque on the root surfaces can cause teeth sensitivity.
What to do if you have teeth sensitivity?
- Maintain good dental and oral hygiene. Brushing twice a day and regular flossing is essential to prevent all dental problems.
- Use a desensitizing toothpaste. There are many brands available over the counter. Regular use of these toothpaste can reduce teeth sensitivity.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a fluoridates toothpaste
- Avoid consuming too many acidic and sugary foods
Regular dental checkups are absolutely necessary to maintain good dental health and prevent major dental problems. If you have dental pain or sensitivity, schedule an appointment with the dentist immediately. Ignoring the problem for too long can make it worse.