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!
Teeth and health change over time. Different stages of life have very different and specific issues that may arise. With the help of the ADA, we have comprised a list of 5 concerns that a mature mouth might encounter.
1.) Gum disease. We know you’ve heard this one before, but the older you get the greater risk you are at. Brushing and flossing (the right way like we outlined in our 8 Common Brushing Mistakes article) combined with regular dental visits and periodontal exams is the winning combo to keep you healthy. Gingivitis is bad enough, but it is the reversible stage of gum disease. If your gum disease reaches periodontitis, it is irreversible.
2.) Missing teeth. Did you know that the average adult between the ages of 20-60 has three or more decayed or missing teeth? You may not think this is a big deal, but missing teeth can affect the way you eat and speak. Additionally, the missing tooth leaves an open space in your mouth that may cause your other teeth to move around or shift, and the vacancy in your mouth can also cause bone loss in that area where the tooth is missing. There are a handful of different solutions to solve this problem. Three of the most common are bridges, dentures, and implants. Call or visit us to discuss your options and together we can decide which option is best for you.
3.) Sensitivity. If you are experiencing discomfort when consuming hot and/or cold foods and beverages, then you may have sensitive teeth. This hyper-sensitivity could be caused by a number of things including tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, gum disease, worn tooth enamel, and/or an exposed tooth root. The good news is that sensitive teeth can be treated. Treatment may be as simple as desensitizing toothpaste, or maybe a more intense treatment is necessary for more extreme cases – treatment oftentimes depends on the cause of the sensitivity.
4.) Dry mouth. Dry mouth can be experienced by anyone, but if your mouth is constantly dry, then it may be time to seek treatment with us. Many things can cause dry mouth – medications, certain health conditions, and alcohol are a few of the more common causes. If you have constant dry mouth, it is important to get it checked because the reduced flow of saliva creates an environment where bacteria can thrive and decay becomes a real problem. Dry mouth itself is not a serious health problem, but making sure you take extra special care of your oral hygiene when/if you experience dry mouth is extremely important to maintaining a healthy mouth.
5.) Oropharyngeal Cancer. This can affect any area of the mouth – lips, gums, cheek lining, tongue, jaw, hard or soft palate, and throat. It can start as an unsuspecting white spot or inflamed area, so make sure to take it seriously if you notice something like this in your mouth. We regularly screen for oral cancers at your check ups because, as with all cancers, early detection is key to rapid recovery, prolonged health, and easier treatment options. Symptoms and warning signs of oral cancer may be, but are not necessarily limited to:
- Sores that bleed easily or do not heal
- A thick/hard spot or a lump
- A roughened or crusted area
- Numbness, pain, or tenderness
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down
- Difficulty chewing, speaking, and/or moving your tongue and jaw
We hope this information is helpful. Don’t neglect your oral health. It is extremely important to stay on top of these concerns so they do not progress as you age and become more difficult to deal with and correct. We are here to help! If you have any questions or concerns call us just to talk, or schedule an appointment.
Click here to take a 5 question (true or false style) quiz about your oral health. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/adults-40-60/fact-or-fiction/
Do your sensitive teeth dread the frozen treats of summer? You are not alone. A recent survey of US dental offices found that one in eight people has over-sensitive teeth.
You may feel pain when you brush and floss or when you eat and drink cold items.
Sensitivity usually comes from receding gums or when the enamel of your teeth is worn away. Brushing too hard, teeth grinding, acidic foods and age could also cause this sensitivity.
The good news is that you can take steps to prevent or lessen the pain:
- Use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth that contains potassium and brush with a soft bristled toothbrush
- Stay away from highly acidic foods
- Your dentist might offer a special fluoride to help strengthen enamel
- A gum graft can help reduce a sensitive area by adding tissue where there is recession
- Bondings or crowns may be needed to cover exposed roots
- For more serious cases, a root canal may be in order to repair damage
Of course, general good dental hygiene on a daily basis and regular cleanings can also go a long way!
If you have any questions or concerns about sensitive teeth, we are happy to talk to you about the prevention and treatment options that would work best for you.
Now that you know how to lessen the pain of sensitive teeth, here’s a quick recipe for a yummy frozen smoothie…
Mixed Berry Smoothie
- 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup pomegranate juice
- 1/2 cup frozen mixed berries
- 1 frozen banana
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
In a blender combine yogurt, pomegranate juice, berries, banana, honey and lime juice. Cover and blend until nearly smooth.
Servings Per Recipe 2, cal. (kcal) 203, Fat, total (g) 2, chol. (mg) 7, sat. fat (g) 1, carb. (g) 39, fiber (g) 3, sugar (g) 24, pro. (g) 10, vit. A (RE) 5, vit. C (mg) 13, sodium (mg) 44, calcium (mg) 11, iron (mg) 6, Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet
Recipe source: http://www.bhg.com/recipe/mixed-berry-smoothie/
Do you have a family member or friend that has a serious fear of visiting a dentist and receiving necessary dental treatments. The IV Sedation service at Falmouth Dental Arts may be the perfect solution. If someone you care about suffers from dental anxiety, please forward this information which explains how IV Sedation could help make dental experiences more pleasant:
Do you have…
• A history of traumatic dental experiences
• Extremely sensitive teeth
• Sensitive gag reflex
• Complex dental problems or a need for surgery?
• Are you in denial or do you ignore your dental problems until the pain is unbearable?
• Have you avoided seeing a dentist for many years, even decades?
How IV Sedation works: Our certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) will adminster sedation drugs via IV (even numbing the back of the hand first!), which quickly relaxes the patient. We will be able to complete several dental procedures at once to reduce the need for numerous return visits. During the sedation period, patients will breathe on their own and will not recall the procedures–not the smells, sounds or feelings. We include time after the procedure for the patient to continue resting in the office and we suggest that patients have someone drive them to and from the appointment, due to the relaxing effects of the medication.
Visit our website for further details on how IV Sedation works at Falmouth Dental Arts.
Do you think sedation dentistry could help you or someone you love? Call us today at 207.781.5900 with any questions.