Sensitive Teeth Causes & Treatment
You bite into a lovely ice cream, taste a piece of chocolate, or dig into that hot home-cooked meal and ouch! A sharp pain shoots through your jaw. What just happened?
If you have sensitive teeth, you’re far from being alone. A great many adults experience the discomfort of sensitive teeth, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. Pain is a message from your body telling you that something’s not right. So, what could be going wrong?
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitive teeth are caused by the loss of the hard tooth enamel that coats our teeth. It may wear down over time as a result of eating acidic foods, failing to brush teeth properly, brushing teeth too hard, or grinding or clenching teeth. However, it can also be a symptom of tooth decay or gum disease.
When the protective coating of tooth enamel is compromised, the soft dentin is exposed. The dentin covers the nerve inside each tooth, but it doesn’t protect it from stimuli in the same way as tooth enamel. Dentin has tiny channels leading to the central pulp of the tooth that contains the nerve, and that allows sweet, acidic, hot, or cold substances to trigger pain.
What Should You Do About Sensitive Teeth?
It’s important to know why your teeth are sensitive. Gum disease, a cracked tooth, or decay can cause the loss of teeth, and a replacement is never quite as good as the real thing. If you’re grinding your teeth, you may also need a mouthguard to prevent further damage to the tooth enamel.
Talk to your dentist about the degree of discomfort you experience. If it is slight, the tooth is intact, and there are no signs of gum disease, you may get away with simple solutions like using a fluoride mouthwash and a special toothpaste for sensitive teeth. A softer toothbrush may help you or may just avoid the foods that trigger the pain.
However, if the tooth is badly damaged or your discomfort is severe, your dentist might suggest bonding, crowns, or inlays to repair the tooth. Fluoride gel or varnish treatments can also help to strengthen worn tooth enamel. If other interventions are unlikely to work, the dentist may suggest root canal treatment to remove the nerve from the offending tooth.
Sometimes, sensitive teeth are caused by gum disease that makes the gums recede, exposing the roots of the teeth. In severe cases, a surgical gum graft will not only reduce tooth sensitivity, but also save you from tooth loss.
Tooth Sensitivity After Filling
People can experience tooth sensitivity after going for a filling. This type of sensitivity should improve gradually, usually clearing altogether after a few weeks. If the pain intensifies instead of improving, you should see your dentist again.
Most dentists prefer to avoid root canal treatments when possible and try to keep dental work as minimally invasive as possible. They will warn patients that there may be a need for root canal treatment if they find that they are filling close to the nerve or give them the option of trying a filling or choosing a root canal.
Don’t Miss Your Check-Up
Your dental check-ups give your teeth the best chance of remaining healthy for a lifetime. If you haven’t been for a dental check up in the last six months, consider going for one now, especially if you are noticing tooth sensitivity. Did that sip of coffee, bit of a crunchy apple, or taste of dessert give you a nasty jolt? Talk to your dentist about your sensitive teeth as soon as you can.