woman with toothache

What to Know About Sensitive Teeth

October 20, 2021

A cold sip of water. A hot cup of coffee. Your favorite snack or meal. None of these should bring you pain or rob you of the joy you normally feel when sitting down to enjoy them. Unfortunately, tooth sensitivity can do just that. Dull or immediate, tooth pain can ruin your day and make you hesitant to eat or drink. 

Living with sensitive teeth can be incredibly uncomfortable, but there are different ways you can help to relieve the pain so you can get back to eating and drinking pain free. Outlined below are ways to tell if you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity and how to treat and manage the pain as well. 

What is tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity, or “dentin hypersensitivity,” is pain or discomfort in the one or more teeth as a response to certain stimuli, such as hot or cold temperatures. Just below the tooth enamel is a layer of dentin, which contains sensitive nerve endings. These nerve endings are normally protected by enamel on the outside of the tooth. When the enamel decays, cracks or gets worn down, the nerve endings can become exposed leading to sensitivity to heat, cold, touch, or other outside factors.

The pain experienced can be temporary or chronic, and it can affect one tooth, several teeth, or even all of your teeth. Certain activities, such as brushing, eating and drinking, can cause a sharp, but mostly temporary pain in your teeth. Sensitive teeth are typically the result of worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots. However, tooth discomfort can be caused by other factors, such as cavities, cracked or chipped teeth, bad fillings, or even gum disease.

Common Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Teeth can become sensitive for different reasons and early intervention can save you significant pain and discomfort later. Different causes for sensitivity require different treatments, so it is important to figure out what is causing you the pain, so calling your dentist  and scheduling an appointment should be your first priority.

Bleaching/Whitening

Pain and hypersensitivity after whitening or bleaching your teeth is quite common and the pain usually subsides after a day or two. 

Acidic Foods

Foods that have a high acidity can eat away at your tooth enamel, allowing the dentin to be exposed, causing sensitivity. 

Brushing Habits

Not brushing enough or brushing too hard can also cause tooth pain. Heavy abrasion on the enamel can damage it, allowing for exposed nerves over time. Brushing too hard can also cause recession of the gums (where the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth) which can exacerbate gum disease and make it easier for tooth decay and bacterial ingress.

Sugary Sodas and Drinks

Soda pop and other sugary drinks can soften or decay enamel, leaving your teeth vulnerable to cavities and other dental issues. Sugar residue promotes decay and erosion. Keep in mind that even if your drink doesn’t have sugar in it, carbonation is also damaging to teeth enamel and can cause sensitivity. 

Teeth Grinding

Bruxism (excessive grinding of the teeth) can wear down enamel and cause issues that extend beyond tooth sensitivity. This condition can affect adults and children, and can occur during day or night. You may experience headaches, jaw pain, or tooth pain in addition to symptoms of tooth sensitivity.

How to treat tooth sensitivity

There are a few home remedies and over-the-counter treatments that can help more minor cases of tooth sensitivity. If the pain becomes unmanageable or lasts for an extended period of time, it is recommended to schedule an examination with your dentist to determine the issue, as it could be way more serious than just a sensitive tooth.

Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth

Sensitivity toothpaste works by either blocking the exposed dentinal tubules or by desensitizing the nerve endings in the dentinal tubules. Most sensitivity toothpastes work by numbing the nerve inside your tooth. 

Dietary changes

Eliminating tooth sensitivity may require dietary changes. This includes eliminating acidic foods (certain fruits and drinks) from your diet, which can weaken tooth enamel.

Starting Healthier Brushing Habits

Changing how you brush your teeth can also help ease tooth sensitivity to cold. Switch from a hard-bristled toothbrush to a soft-bristled toothbrush, and don’t brush too vigorously. It is better to brush more thoroughly rather than harder to remove plaque, food debris, and stains.

Wearing Mouth Guards

Mouth guards are especially helpful if you suffer from teeth grinding or TMJ.A mouth guard will prevent you from grinding and clenching your teeth at night when you may not realize you are doing it. Talk to your dentist to see if a mouth guard would be beneficial for your teeth and jaw.

Regular Checkups

Dentists are experts on tooth sensitivity and can provide all the help you need if at-home remedies aren’t getting the job done or if your pain is too uncomfortable. You don’t have to suffer with tooth sensitivity and discomfort as there are many options to help alleviate the pain.

Stay Pain Free with Caring and Professional Dentists

Carrie Muzny DDS offers the highest-quality dental services for our patients in The Woodlands and surrounding areas. Our highly acclaimed dentists are not only exceptionally trained in modern preventative techniques, but also have attained academic honors and continue to refine their craft year after year in preventative dentistry, restorative dentistry, surgical procedures, and cosmetic dentistry.

With our state-of-the-art technology and vast range of smile-perfecting procedures, we stay atop the field and deliver care and comfort to our patients daily.

To let us help you get that perfect smile, contact us today. You can even request a virtual consultation!

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