Does just the thought of eating ice cream make you cringe? How about a bite of hard candy, or a sip of ice water? If these actions tend to leave you writhing with oral pain, you may be suffering from dentin hypersensitivity, more commonly known as teeth sensitivity. The pain from teeth sensitivity can range from mild to severe, and is often described as being intensely sharp in nature. It’s estimated that nearly half of the U.S. population suffers from some form of teeth sensitivity. If you’re one of the millions who understand the agony of having sensitive teeth, then you’re likely already familiar with the most common “triggers” of your pain: hot, cold, sweet or acidic foods and drinks, and breathing in cold air.
What causes teeth sensitivity for so many people, and what can be done to ease its symptoms? Read on to learn more about this common dental issue and what you can do to treat the pain.
Causes of Teeth Sensitivity
Sensitive teeth are usually caused by worn tooth enamel or exposed roots. Sometimes, however, the discomfort is fueled by other factors, such as plaque buildup, teeth grinding, or gum disease. The following are just some of the reasons why you may be experiencing teeth sensitivity:
- Brushing too hard. Over time, brushing your teeth with too much gusto can wear down the protective layers of your teeth to expose microscopic canals that lead to your dental nerves. When this damage is exposed to extreme temperatures, acidic or sticky foods, teeth sensitivity and discomfort can result.
- Acidic foods. When the pathways to your nerves are exposed, acidic foods such as tomato sauce, citrus fruits, or pickles can cause discomfort.
- Teeth grinding. Grinding wears down the enamel in your teeth, exposing the dentin, which contains the hollow canals that lead to your nerves. If you tend to grind your teeth at night, consult with your local Ozark, MO dentist who can help you find a custom-fit mouth guard that’ll put a stop to your grinding.
- Certain mouthwashes. Some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain alcohol and other ingredients that can heighten your teeth sensitivity — especially if your dentin is already exposed. Try neutral fluoride rinses instead, or ask the professionals at Excel Dental for a recommendation that’s personalized to your needs.
- Gum disease. Receding gums are increasingly common with age, leading to root sensitivity. If you suffer from gum disease or gingivitis, your Springfield, MO dentist will work with you to determine an appropriate treatment plan.
- Excessive plaque. Excessive buildup of plaque can cause tooth enamel demineralization. As your teeth lose that critical layer of protection, sensitivity can result. Make sure to practice good daily dental hygiene and schedule a professional cleaning at Excel Dental every six months or as frequently as advised by your dental professional.
If you believe you’re suffering from sensitive teeth, the first step is to make an appointment to see your dentist. He or she can help determine the root cause of your sensitivity and rule out any underlying issues that may be causing your pain.
From there, your dentist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options, based off your individual needs:
- Desensitizing toothpaste. Desensitizing toothpaste uses specially-formulated compounds that help block the pain associated with sensitive teeth. Your Ozark, MO dentist can help recommend the best product that can work for you. Patience is key when starting a desensitizing toothpaste regimen; it may take several applications of this toothpaste before you start to notice a difference.
- Fluoride. Another treatment option is the application of fluoride varnish to the sensitive areas of your teeth. The fluoride varnish helps to strengthen the surface of your teeth and reduce pain.
- Desensitizing or bonding. In some cases, exposed root surfaces can be treated by applying bonding resin to the sensitive root surfaces.
- Root canal. If your sensitive teeth cause severe pain and other treatments have proven ineffective, your dental professional might recommend a root canal to treat the core of the problem deep within your dentin. Although a root canal may seem like a significant procedure, it’s considered one of the most successful techniques for permanently eliminating sensitivity.
Your local dentist is best equipped to diagnose the cause of your sensitivity and determine an effective treatment plan.
The number one way to avoid teeth sensitivity is to maintain a proper oral care routine, including brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush, using fluoride toothpaste, and flossing twice daily.
You may also want to consider making changes to your diet. Acidic foods and drinks (citrus fruits and juices, soda, wine) should be avoided, as they tend to remove small amounts of tooth enamel minerals over time. Should you want to consume the occasional glass of orange juice or carbonated beverage, use a straw to limit the acidity making direct contact with your teeth. Drinking milk or water after consuming an acidic food or beverage can balance the levels of acid in your mouth.
It’s also important to remember to wait to brush your teeth at least 20 minutes after you’ve eaten. This is because acid softens enamel, so brushing while the acid is still active can actually make your teeth even more vulnerable.
Sensitivity Shouldn’t be a Pain!
Teeth sensitivity can be a real pain, but it doesn’t have to be. Schedule a consultation appointment today with the trusted team at Excel Dental, Dr. Tracy Davis or Dr. Nick Matthews. Find us in Ozark, Missouri — just a short 10 minute drive from Springfield.
Searching for more advice on this topic? Make sure to check out these related posts from our blog:
- Treating Tooth Sensitivity
- 3 Tips for Choosing the Best Toothpaste
- Everything You Need To Know, But Were Afraid To Ask, About Root Canals