Sensitive Teeth

What Causes Dental Discomfort or Sensitive Teeth?

Sensitive teeth occur when the layer of your teeth known as dentin becomes exposed as a result of receding gum tissue or the loss of enamel.  Gum tissue is the protective blanket that covers the tooth roots. The enamel is the hard white protective cover on your teeth.  The dentin contains thousands of tiny tubules leading to the tooth’s nerve center (the pulp). These dentinal tubules (or channels) allow the hot, cold, or sweet food stimulation to reach the nerve in your tooth, which results in the discomfort or increased sensitivity you feel.

There are many factors that may lead to sensitive teeth, including.

  • Brushing too hard. Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear away enamel and expose dentin. It can also cause recession of the gums (the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth).
  • Tooth decay and plaque buildup is caused from bacterial that occur when teeth are not properly brushed and flossed.
  • Recession of the gums. As gums move away from a tooth due to conditions such as periodontal disease, the root surface becomes exposed.
  • Gum disease (gingivitis). Inflamed and sore gum tissue may cause sensitivity due to the loss of supporting ligaments, which exposes the root surface that leads directly to the nerve of the tooth.
  • Cracked teeth. Chipped or broken teeth may fill with bacteria from plaque and enter the pulp causing Inflammation.
  • Teeth grinding. Grinding or clenching your teeth may wear down the enamel and expose underlying dentin.
  • Tooth whitening products. These products may be major contributors to sensitive teeth.
  • Your age. Tooth sensitivity does naturally increase between the ages of 25 and 30.
  • Mouthwash use. Long-term use of certain mouthwashes. Some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acids that can worsen tooth sensitivity if you have exposed dentin. The acids further damage the dentin layer of the tooth. A mouthwash with a neutral fluoride solution should be used.
  • Acidic foods. Regular heavy consumption of foods with a high acid content, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and tea, can cause enamel erosion.
  • Recent routine dental procedures. Sensitivity can occur following teeth cleaning, root planing crown placement, and tooth restoration.  Most often sensitivity caused by dental procedures is temporary, usually disappearing in four to six weeks.

What Can I Do to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity?

Some steps you can take to prevent tooth sensitivity include:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene. It is most important to brush, with a soft brush, and floss to clean all parts of your teeth, gums and mouth.
  • Use desensitizing toothpaste. There are several brands of toothpaste available for sensitive teeth.
  • Watch what you eat. Frequent consumption of highly acid foods can gradually dissolve tooth enamel and lead to dentin exposure. They may also aggravate the sensitivity and start the pain reaction.
  • Use fluoridated dental products. Daily use of a fluoridated mouth rinse can decrease sensitivity. Ask your dentist about available products for home use.
  • Avoid teeth grinding. If you grind or clench your teeth, use mouth guard at night.
  • See your dentist at regular intervals. Get professional tooth cleaning, oral hygiene instructions, and fluoride treatments every six months.

More information about dental problems and solutions can be found on the Pinnacle Dental website.