Something we hear a lot in our dental office is that a patient’s teeth hurt at certain moments – like when you’re eating a long-awaited ice cream on a summer day or when you’re sipping coffee at an early morning meeting. Noticing these moments is important, but why do those frequent twinges happen? We’d like to help you get to the bottom of this particular dental discomfort by sharing some common causes behind tooth sensitivity as well as some tips on how to reduce sensitivity.
What are some causes of tooth sensitivity?
Put simply, tooth enamel protects the crowns of your teeth and the cementum protects the roots of teeth below the gum line. When either of these barriers are depleted, dentin is exposed. If dentin is exposed, hot, cold, acidic, and/or sticky substances are allowed access to nerves and cells inside the tooth via dentin’s microscopic tubules. Whereas before these nerves and cells were protected by enamel and cementum, the dentin tubules are now exposed and this contact will cause nerves to react to certain substances.
Here is a rundown of some of the most common causes behind tooth sensitivity:
- Overly aggressive tooth-brushing practices, which may or may not be connected to hard-bristled toothbrush usage
- Highly acidic food and beverage consumption, which leads to erosion of tooth enamel
- Tooth decay in the form of broken teeth or cavities, and/or worn fillings that no longer fit properly
- Tooth-grinding (also known as bruxism)
- Over-bleaching or overuse of whitening products
How to Reduce Sensitivity
Many of the common causes of tooth sensitivity result in the same thing: wearing down the tooth enamel or gum line.
We’ve compiled some recommendations here on how to combat some of these causes and lessen your chances of encountering tooth sensitivity:
- Switch from a hard-bristled to a soft-bristled toothbrush, and check with us for a quick refresher to make sure that you’re brushing your teeth with good form.
- Don’t consume as many acidic foods or beverages. What’s acidic, you ask? High-sugar carbs, soda, sticky candy, and other things. We know it’s hard to stop eating some of these foods, but we suggest you try less acidic alternatives like cheese, fruit, and veggies instead. They’re also healthier for you, which is a bonus!
- If you have broken teeth, cavities, or fillings, please have us take a look at them so that we can find a way to minimize your dentin exposure.
- Talk to us (and your MD) about tooth-grinding and how it could be affecting your teeth.
- Take a break from using whitening or bleaching products.
Another thing to consider is that sensitivity can also be a sign of more serious conditions, like gum disease or gums that shrink as you age, a natural phenomenon. In either of these cases, we encourage you to tell us when you encounter a sensitive tooth, so that we can get you on the path to better dental health.
If you’re worried about tooth sensitivity, make sure to let us know at your next appointment, that way we can make a treatment plan to help you get back on the path of eating ice cream or drinking a cup of morning joe again!