Have you ever taken a cold drink of water and felt a sharp sensation in your teeth? Do warm or cold liquids tend to make your teeth hurt? Have you ever wondered why this is happening? If you experience this type of discomfort you most likely have sensitive teeth.
Many Americans suffer from tooth sensitivity and don’t know why. Today, we’ll talk about what causes tooth sensitivity, what you can do for your sensitive teeth at home, and what we are able to do for you at our office.
Can Teeth Whitening Cause Sensitivity?
If you have ever had your teeth whitened professionally, or have whitened them on your own with an over-the-counter treatment, then you may have experienced some sort of sensitivity afterwards. It is common to experience sensitive teeth when whitening. But, the sensitivity you experience after a whitening treatment is different than dentin hypersensitivity. The reason you experience sensitivity when whitening is because the bleaching component in the whitening treatment is believed to penetrate the tooth.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity, or ‘dentin hypersensitivity,’ is a common dental problem. Tooth sensitivity can develop over time as a result of receding gums or enamel wear. The sensitivity can start to develop when the softer part of the tooth, or the dentin, becomes exposed. This dentin lies under the enamel and gums. There are thousands of nerves that run through the dentin, and when you drink something cold those nerves become stimulated, thus resulting in that sharp pain you feel in your teeth. The main factors that cause sensitive teeth are:
- Enamel wear from teeth grinding
- Enamel wear from brushing too frequently
- Enamel wear from acid erosion
- Gum recession from gum disease or aggressive brushing of the teeth
Caring for Sensitive Teeth at Home?
If you are experiencing sensitive teeth, the first thing we recommend is to visit our office. During a dental exam, we will determine the exact cause of your sensitivity and recommend the best treatment options to eliminate it. If you are unable to get an appointment right away, there are some over-the-counter treatments that temporarily help relieve the symptoms of tooth sensitivity.
- Swap out your regular toothpaste for a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. Some sensitive toothpastes contain an ingredient called potassium nitrate that helps to block out the tiny tubules in the dentin that cause the pain.
- Change your toothbrush to a softer bristled brush. Most people believe you have to brush your teeth vigorously to clean them. Brushing in slow motions gets the job done without wearing away on your gums and enamel.
- Avoid acidic foods and drinks that further break down the enamel. Exposure to food and drinks such as pop, red wine, oranges, and pickles, just to name a few, can put your enamel under constant attack. If you are already experiencing sensitivity, avoid these. As a general rule of thumb, you should try to minimize highly acidic foods even if you are not experiencing sensitivity.
- Wear a mouth guard at night if you are grinding your teeth. Teeth grinding can break down your enamel causing tooth sensitivity. By wearing mouth guard at night, you are eliminating the chances of further enamel erosion.
If you find you are not having much luck at eliminating your sensitivity with these treatments, schedule an appointment with us so we can determine your exact cause. We have options for treating sensitivity, such as desensitizing agents that are applied to the sensitive areas on your teeth. These wear off over time and will need to be reapplied, but it will greatly reduce your sensitivity.
We know how annoying and painful tooth sensitivity can be so, we would like to assist you on the road to a pain-free mouth. For more information on how we can help to end your sensitive teeth, contact us here!