Tooth sensitivity is the common name for root sensitivity or dentin sensitivity (the layer beneath tooth enamel). It refers to pain or discomfort in your teeth in response to certain stimuli. Symptoms may come and go, and may range from mild to severe. Tooth sensitivity is very common, and also very treatable. If you are bothered by sensitive teeth, see your dentist.
How Can I Tell if I Have Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity has many indications. Any or all of the following may be symptoms of tooth sensitivity.
- Pain when drinking hot or cold beverages
- Pain when eating hot or cold foods
- Pain when eating or drinking sweet or acidic foods and beverages
- Pain when breathing cold air
- Staining on the surface of your teeth
- Pain when brushing your teeth
- Pain localized to one tooth
- Sharp temporary pain rather than mild pain
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Spontaneous tooth pain without obvious cause
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Sensitive teeth are usually the result of worn tooth enamel or exposed roots. However, tooth sensitivity may be caused by other factors. Any single or combination of the following may be the cause of your tooth sensitivity.
- Improper brushing habits (using a hard toothbrush and brushing aggressively)
- Frequent eating and drinking of acidic and/or sweet foods and beverages
- Weakened or fractured fillings
- Broken or chipped teeth
- Receding gums
- Grinding your teeth in your sleep
- Dental treatments (temporary sensitivity associated with procedures such as crowns, fillings, and bleaching)
- The frequent use of home bleaching kits
- Plaque build-up that erodes enamel
- Gum disease such as gingivitis
- A cavity
- Hormone imbalance causing gum inflammation
What Can I Do About Tooth Sensitivity?
Don’t despair! There are many ways that you can prevent tooth sensitivity. Purchase a soft bristled brush and use it at a 45° angle to your gums, brushing delicately. Floss regularly and use fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash daily. Take a break from the use of home bleaching kits. If you grind your teeth, consider a mouth guard. Drink water or chew sugarless gum after consuming acidic foods and drinks. Try using a straw when drinking acidic beverages to limit contact with your teeth.
So what do you do if you already have tooth sensitivity? See your dentist. Your dentist will determine the reason for your sensitivity and treat the underlying cause. She may recommend desensitizing toothpaste, or apply fluoride to the sensitive areas of your teeth to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain. Occasionally, she may treat exposed roots by applying bonding resin to the sensitive surfaces. Crowns, fillings or inlays may be used to fix a tooth flaw or decay that is causing the sensitivity. In rare cases surgical gum grafts are used. A small amount of gum tissue is taken from elsewhere in your mouth and attached to the affected site. If the pain can’t be managed, sometimes a root canal may be necessary (a procedure used to treat problems in the tooth’s soft core or pulp).
The mystery of what is causing your tooth sensitivity can be solved by input from your dentist. She will look at the health of your teeth and check for potential problems. An office visit will determine the most likely cause of your pain and help find the best solution for your particular situation.
Centennial Smiles can help you with tooth sensitivity. Call us today at 587-353-5060.