You take a sip of your morning latte only to feel a sharp pain in your teeth. Or, you feel a stinging sensation whenever you eat something cold, such as ice cream. If pain when you eat, drink or try to brush your teeth is the norm, you most likely have sensitive teeth. A number of things can cause sensitivity, from cavities to gum disease.
It’s possible to relieve the discomfort caused by sensitive teeth. In some cases, relief involves treating the underlying cause of the sensitivity. You can also reduce it by improving the strength of your teeth.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth
When your teeth are healthy, they are covered with enamel, a hard protective coating made of calcium. The enamel is over top of the dentin, a softer, more porous substance that covers the nerves in the teeth. If the enamel wears away or is cracked, liquids are able to get to the dentin. The dentin contains a number of small tubes that reach into the nerves, meaning that the liquid is able to reach the nerves, causing a feeling of pain or discomfort, particularly if the liquid is hot, cold or acidic.
Enamel wear and tear can occur for a number of reasons. If you aren’t particularly diligent about brushing or flossing, you might have tooth decay that’s caused the enamel to wear thin. On the other hand, being too vigorous a brusher can also wear out your enamel, which is why dentists usually recommend using a soft bristled toothbrush.
Worn out enamel isn’t the only cause of sensitivity in the teeth. Your teeth might be sensitive if the roots are exposed, due to a receding gum line or advanced periodontal disease. Damage to the tooth, such as a cracked or chipped tooth or a filling that’s come loose can also make your teeth sensitive.
In some cases, sensitivity in the teeth can be a temporary issue. If you’ve recently received a dental implant or crown, your teeth might be a little tender. The sensitivity usually wears off within a few weeks’ time.
How your dentist treats sensitive teeth depends on the cause of the problem. A first line of treatment is often special toothpaste that helps desensitize the teeth. Desensitizing toothpaste works by either building up the enamel or by reducing the nerve response in your teeth. You will most likely need to use the toothpaste several times before you notice any results.
If the sensitivity is related to enamel wear, your dentist might recommend in-office fluoride treatments to strengthen the teeth. Filling a cavity or repairing any areas where tooth decay is present can also reduce any discomfort you feel in the teeth. If one or more of your teeth are severely cracked or chipped, your dentist may recommend replacing the teeth with an implant and crown or with an implant supported bridge, depending on how many teeth are affected.
Sensitivity related to gum disease can often be treated by treating the gum disease. As gum disease progresses, it causes the gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, exposing the root. One way to fix it is the pinhole surgical technique™ to correct receding gums. Another treatment option for gum recession include surgery using a gum graft.
Once you’ve found a way to treat your sensitive teeth, you also want to take steps to keep it from recurring. A good oral care routine is key to keep sensitivity away. Your dentist can give you tips and advice on the best way to brush to keep your teeth clean and to avoid wear and tear on the enamel.
Your diet can also play a part in keeping sensitivity away or in making it worse. Certain foods, such foods with a high acid content, can wear on the enamel, making it likely that the sensitivity will return. Limit foods such as citrus, yogurt and tomatoes as well as liquids such as coffee and soda.
Teeth grinding can also wear down your enamel, making your teeth more sensitive, so if you find yourself waking with a tired jaw or if your partner complains that you make grinding noises at night, you might want to ask your dentist about wearing a mouthguard or about ways to reduce the teeth grinding.
Regular dental check-ups and examinations are a key part of preventing sensitivity. If the pain in your teeth was related to gum disease, Miami periodontists Dr. John Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas can provide treatment as well as suggestions for keeping your teeth in good health. To learn more about treatment options for periodontal disease, contact their practice for an appointment today by calling (305) 447-1447.