Sensitive Teeth: Causes, Remedies & Treatments

Posted by Seaman Family Dentistry Sep 14, 2023

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Sensitive teeth can be a real nuisance, causing discomfort and pain during activities as simple as eating, drinking, or even breathing in cold air. If you've ever experienced that sharp, sudden jolt of pain when you bite into something hot or cold, you know how bothersome sensitive teeth can be. But don’t worry, Seaman Family Density will help you get to the bottom of the causes behind your tooth sensitivity, explain some home remedies to alleviate the discomfort, and demystify the treatments available to regain your dental comfort.

Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity, technically known as "dentin hypersensitivity," occurs when the protective layer of enamel on the teeth starts to wear down, exposing the underlying dentin. Dentin contains tiny tubules that lead to the nerve endings in the tooth's pulp. When these tubules come into contact with hot, cold, sweet, or acidic substances, they can trigger a sharp pain. This can happen for any of the following reasons:

  • Brushing Too Hard: Aggressive brushing can erode enamel and lead to gum recession, exposing the dentin and causing sensitivity.
  • Gum Recession: Gum disease or improper brushing technique can cause the gums to recede, exposing the sensitive root surfaces.
  • Dental Erosion: Consuming highly acidic foods and beverages can erode enamel over time, leading to sensitivity.
  • Teeth Grinding: Habitual grinding can wear down enamel and cause sensitivity, particularly at the tips of the teeth.
  • Tooth Decay: Cavities or cracks in the enamel that go untreated can lead to sensitivity as they expose dentin, progressing deeper into the tooth.

NOTE: Some dental treatments like teeth whitening or root planing can cause temporary sensitivity, so talk to your dentist with any initial concerns before starting any treatment. 

At-Home Remedies for Tooth Sensitivity

While it's important to consult a dentist for persistent or severe sensitivity, there are several ways to reduce the amount of sensitivity you’re experiencing or provide temporary relief at home:

  • Desensitizing Toothpaste: These toothpaste formulations contain compounds that help block pain signals from reaching the nerves in your teeth.
  • Soft-Bristled Toothbrush: Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and use gentle circular motions (proper brushing technique) to prevent enamel erosion.
  • Fluoride Mouthwash: Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash to strengthen enamel and reduce sensitivity.
  • Avoid Acidic Foods: Minimize consumption of acidic foods and drinks to prevent further enamel erosion.
  • Limit Teeth Grinding: If you grind your teeth, consider wearing a nightguard to protect your enamel.

Professional Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity

For cases of severe or persistent tooth sensitivity, it's advisable to consult a dentist. Some professional treatments include:

  • Fluoride Gel or Varnish: Dentists can apply concentrated fluoride treatments to strengthen enamel and reduce sensitivity.
  • Dental Bonding: This involves applying a protective resin to exposed root surfaces, providing a barrier against stimuli.
  • Gum Grafting: If gum recession is the cause of sensitivity, a small amount of gum tissue can be grafted onto the exposed area to cover the roots.
  • Root Canal: In extreme cases where sensitivity is due to nerve exposure, a root canal procedure might be necessary to remove the nerve and eliminate pain.
  • Surgical Gum Treatment: For advanced gum disease causing sensitivity, surgical interventions might be needed to treat the underlying issue.

Tooth sensitivity doesn't have to be a constant annoyance. By understanding the underlying causes, embracing preventive measures, and seeking professional guidance, when necessary, you can regain the joy of eating and drinking without fearing sudden discomfort. Remember, maintaining good oral hygiene, using a good quality toothbrush, and seeking regular professional guidance are essential steps in ensuring optimal dental health and overall well-being.

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