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With sensitive teeth, it can be difficult to enjoy the foods and drinks you love, such as ice cream or hot beverages. Fortunately, a variety of treatments exist for tooth sensitivity. Depending on the cause, your dentist can recommend a solution for you.

Signs of Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity causes sharp, often temporary pain in a variety of situations, such as:

  • Extreme Hot and Cold—if you experience sudden discomfort when you consume something very hot or cold, you may have sensitive teeth.
  • Acidic or Sweet Foods and Drinks—an exposed root, enamel erosion, or cavity can also make you more sensitive to things that are very sweet or acidic.
  • Breathing Cold Air—for some patients with sensitive teeth, even taking a deep breath during cold weather can cause significant pain.

Types of Dental Sensitivity

There a few types of dental sensitivity:

  • Sour Sensitive
  • Cold Sensitive
  • Hot Sensitive

Sensitivity Is often caused by dentin exposure. Teeth become sensitive when the inner layer, known as dentin, is exposed. There are many different ways that dentin can become exposed, including decay and gum recession.

Am I at Risk of Sensitive Teeth?

The products you use and stress level can increase the chances of sensitivity. Using an abrasive toothpaste or other products that are hard on your enamel can increase your chances of developing dental sensitivity. Some studies have also found that individuals who are under stress or have obsessive-compulsive symptoms are more likely to have sensitive teeth.

Is Dental Hypersensitivity Normal?

Tooth sensitivity is a relatively common issue. According to a study in Clinical Oral Investigations, 25-30% of adults report that they experience dental sensitivity.

What Should I do if my Teeth are Sensitive?

The first step toward finding relief from sensitive teeth is to speak with your dentist. It is a good idea to keep track of what causes your symptoms and what normally makes them better for a period of time leading up to your appointment. Your doctor will conduct an exam to determine the underlying cause of sensitivity. The best treatment option for you will depend on the cause of your symptoms.

Potential Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth Decay

A cavity or decay under the surface can cause pain and make your tooth more sensitive to temperature changes.

Damaged Teeth

A crack or fracture in a tooth may not constantly cause pain, but instead, react to certain foods or drinks.

Older Fillings

Fillings protect areas of teeth which have been damaged. When they become worn, the nerves inside of teeth may be exposed to external elements, leading to sensitivity.

Worn Enamel

When enamel becomes too thin to protect the nerves within teeth, dentin hypersensitivity can result.

Exposed Roots

If gum recession or other issues have left your roots exposed, it can cause dental sensitivity.

Gum Disease

Inflammation in the gums can make teeth more sensitive and cause gums to recede, leaving the roots exposed.

Is There a Way to Prevent Tooth Sensitivity?

Taking care of your tooth enamel can help reduce or stop symptoms, such as:

  • Use Gentle Brushing Techniques—placing too much force on your teeth while you brush can damage the enamel. Avoid brushing side-to-side right at the gum line. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush and hold it at a 45-degree angle to your gum line while brushing.
  • Avoid Eating or Drinking Acidic Products—certain foods and drinks, such as soda, sticky candy, and high-sugar carbs, are more likely to cause damage to your enamel. Change up your snacking habits to include foods such as fruits and veggies high in fiber, cheese, and plain yogurt.
  • Treat Clenching or Grinding—when left untreated, clenching or grinding your teeth can wear away at enamel. For some patients, reducing stress can stop the issue. However, you may need another treatment for bruxism, such as a mouth guard or orthodontic adjustment.
John F. Rink DDS, AAACD

Good oral hygiene is your best defense against most oral health problems, including tooth sensitivity.

The Journal of the American Dental Association

Can These Techinques Really Help?

For Some Patients, Stopping Sensitivity is as easy as changing toothpastes. For minor sensitivity, switching to a desensitizing toothpaste can help block pain and stop symptoms. There are many over-the-counter products available, so it is a good idea to discuss your options with a dentist before choosing one. It is important to keep in mind that desensitizing toothpaste cannot treat the underlying cause of sensitivity and may not be effective for more severe issues.

What if Changing Toothpastes isn't Enough?

Your doctor can recommend treatement based on your needs, such as:

  • Fluoride Treatment—professional treatments can strengthen tooth enamel, protecting the dentin.
  • Dental Filling—a filling can repair areas of mild to moderate damage, improving symptoms.
  • Restorations—for extensive damage, your dentist may recommend an inlay, onlay, or dental crown.
  • Gum Treatments—for gum recession, you may need treatment such as a gum graft to restore your health.
  • Root Canal—therapy If sensitivity is severe and persists, you may have an infection within the root.

Having sensitive teeth can interrupt your daily life and make it more difficult to enjoy the things you love. Learn more about the treatment options available to you by contacting a doctor today.

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