Does taking a spoonful of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee sometimes make you wince? Read on to see what it means and what you can do about it.
Are Your Teeth “Sensitive”?
Tooth sensitivity can affect one or more teeth. It is most usually felt when you eat or drink something hot, cold, sweet, or sour. Sometimes even inhaling a breath of cold air can cause pain. If you feel a sudden sharp pain when you do these things, you have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is very common, and sensitivity to cold drinks and food is the most common sign.
What Are the Causes of Sensitive Teeth?
Tooth sensitivity happens when the dentin of a tooth is exposed. Normally, the dentin is covered by enamel above the gum line and cementum below the gum line. When enamel or cementum is worn away, nerve endings in the dentin are exposed resulting in sensitivity. There are a number of causes of sensitive teeth. Some of them have to do with your behavior, and some are related to the condition of your teeth and gums.
Things that You Might Do
- Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear down tooth enamel and expose dental nerves.
- Grinding your teeth can also wear down the enamel and expose dental nerves.
- Eating acidic foods such as tomato sauce, citrus fruits, pickles, and tea can wear down enamel.
- Using a tooth-whitening toothpaste can sometimes be major contributor to sensitive teeth due to the ingredients that cause the whitening.
- Using mouthwash for an extended period can cause sensitivity because of the acids and alcohol it contains.
Things Related to the Condition of your Teeth and Gums
- Tooth decay – Tooth decay, especially around fillings or near the gum line, allows bacteria to accumulate, which causes acid buildup and enamel breakdown.
- Plaque buildup – The presence of plaque on the root surfaces can cause tooth enamel to wear away.
- Gum disease – Receding gums, which are increasingly common with age and poor oral hygiene, can expose the roots of your teeth and thereby cause sensitivity.
- Dental procedure – Dental procedures such as a root canal, tooth restoration, or placement of a crown can make teeth sensitive. If this type of sensitivity doesn’t go away after a short time, you should report it to your dentist.
What to Do
If you are engaging in a behavior that contributes to sensitive teeth, try making a change and see if it helps. For example, brush more gently, use a softer toothbrush, use a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth, etc.
If you think your sensitivity is related to a gum or tooth condition, you should see your dentist. It could be a sign of a more serious problem. And if tooth sensitivity lasts for longer than a few weeks, get in to see your dentist.
Above all, if you want to prevent tooth sensitivity practice good oral hygiene!