Having teeth that are sensitive to varying temperatures, pressure or even eating certain foods can be a very unpleasant experience and cause discomfort on a frequent basis. Levels of sensitivity can vary from slight discomfort to unbearable pain and can be created by a variety of problems in your mouth or simply by lifestyle choices.
If you are dealing with sensitive teeth, begin by looking at some of the reasons that could be behind your sensitivity:
• An undetected cavity – Even if you are not aware of a cavity in your teeth, tooth decay could have taken hold in the center of a tooth or in areas that are hard to detect.
• An exposed tooth root – The roots of teeth can become exposed simply from aging or from receding gum tissue and when this happens they are more vulnerable to temperature changes or pressure.
• Cracked teeth – Over time, teeth can crack or chip and those areas can fill with bacteria that can cause inflammation in the pulp or center of the tooth.
• Bruxism or grinding of your teeth – If you unconsciously grind your teeth (especially when you are sleeping), your teeth can become weakened and even cracked from the consistent pressure.
• Erosion of your tooth enamel – When the strong coating of enamel that protects a tooth has become compromised, it leaves the inside of the tooth vulnerable and exposed to the sensations of heat or cold.
• A leaky filling – Fillings sometimes wear down and gaps can appear between the tooth and the filling where food particles get caught and begin to cause problems.
• Periodontal problems – Infections below the gum line and near the root of a tooth can cause sensitivity when pressure is placed on the tooth or when hot or cold food or beverages are consumed.
• Brushing too hard – Sometimes applying too much pressure when you brush your teeth or using a toothbrush with hard bristles can wear away the tooth enamel, which exposes the dentin where tiny nerve endings reside.
• Build up of plaque on your teeth – If plaque has been allowed to build up on the root surface of a tooth, sensitivity can result.
• Poor oral hygiene – If you do not consistently brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day, plaque, which is ever constant in your mouth, can build up or combine with sugar in the foods you eat to create acids that eat away at tooth enamel.
• Eating a lot of sugary foods – The bacteria in plaque, when combined with sugar, creates an acid that is extremely damaging to teeth and can contribute to gum disease as well.
• A diet high in acidic foods – Foods that are high in acidity can create sensitivity or vulnerability in your teeth because acid, over time, can dissolve the enamel which protects the dentin where the nerve endings reside.
• Overuse of mouth washes, rinses or over-the-counter tooth whitening products – It is always a good idea to check with your dentist before using any over-the-counter products for your mouth and teeth to ensure that they don’t contain products that can harm your tooth enamel or gum tissue.
Whenever tooth sensitivity appears, your first plan of action should be to have a dental checkup to ensure that there are no cavities or periodontal problems that are causing that reaction. If there are, your dentist can correct the problem which will remove the sensitivity. Once your dentist determines that your teeth and gums are healthy, if the sensitivity still exists, there are actions you can take at home to help reduce your discomfort:
• Be consistent and thorough with your daily oral hygiene practices by brushing at least twice a day and flossing once a day.
• Brush your teeth gently and use a soft-bristled tooth brush to prevent harming your tooth enamel or gum tissue.
• Check with your dentist about using a desensitizing toothpaste to help block sensations from reaching the nerves in your teeth.
• Pay attention to your diet and cut down on sugary or acidic foods that could be contributing to the problem.
No matter what the cause of your tooth sensitivity may be, it’s important to deal with it so that the discomfort does not turn into a major dental issue.