Tooth sensitivity is the term used to describe hypersensitivity to cold and hot foods and beverages. It’s also referred to as root sensitivity. Experiencing tooth sensitivity is uncomfortable, painful, and causes you to miss out on some of your favorite treats, such as ice cream. If you are experiencing discomfort and pain while attempting to enjoy hot and cold foods, the team at Six Forks Smiles can help you determine the cause and recommend treatment.
Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity is ultimately caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin, which is located behind the hard enamel. When the enamel is worn down or gums have receded, the dentin is exposed, which causes pain and discomfort when it encounters certain foods and beverages. What causes the hard enamel to wear down? Here are a few reasons:
- Brushing your teeth too hard – Of course, you should brush your teeth several times a day, but brushing too hard or using a brush with hard bristles can break down the protective enamel layers over time. Use a brush with soft or medium bristles. Brush gently, but thoroughly!
- Grinding your teeth – Do you find yourself clenching and grinding your teeth frequently due to stress? This could also cause tooth enamel to wear down. Talk to our team about using a mouth guard to help protect your teeth.
- Using a tooth-whitening toothpaste – While we all want whiter teeth and a great smile, tooth-whitening toothpastes often contain chemicals that cause tooth sensitivity. If you wish to have whiter teeth, talk to one of our dentists about the best options.
- Mouthwash – Some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain alcohol and other agents that cause tooth sensitivity. Dentists recommend using a neutral fluoride rinse or simply skipping it altogether in favor of more diligent flossing and brushing.
- Excessive plaque – Plaque buildup causes tooth enamel to wear down and leads to sensitive teeth. This is why it’s important to brush and floss your teeth several times a day and see your dentist every six months.
- Chipped or cracked tooth – A chipped or cracked tooth exposes the dentin and can be quite painful. Your dentist may recommend a cap or extraction if this is the cause of your tooth sensitivity.
- Old fillings – As the years go by, cavity fillings can weaken around the edges. This causes bacteria build-up and enamel breakdown.
- Recent dental procedure – It’s common and expected that your teeth may be a bit sensitive after a cavity filling, root canal, or other dental procedure. However, this should subside after a short time. If your tooth sensitivity persists, contact our office
No matter the cause of your tooth sensitivity, it’s important to avoid acidic foods. Foods such as tomatoes and citrus foods often cause the most pain to those experiencing tooth sensitivity.
Treatments for Sensitive Teeth
Treatments for sensitive teeth largely depend on the cause. For teeth grinders, for example, a mouth guard will do the trick. If it’s a chipped or cracked tooth, your dentist may need to remove the tooth in order to relieve the pain. For others, special toothpastes, protective sealants, or fluoride treatments may be prescribed. Fluoride not only helps to rebuild enamel to protect your teeth, it also provides significant cavity protection.
While being treated for sensitive teeth, you may be asked to avoid certain foods, toothpastes, or medications. Listen to your dentist’s instructions carefully!
Contact Your Family Dentist
Though there are over-the-counter solutions for sensitive teeth such as Sensodyne, these only work for short periods of time. If the pain and sensitivity persists for more than three days, it’s time to contact a professional. The cause of sensitive teeth can be determined through a routine dental exam, so call Six Forks Smiles at 919-834-4450 to schedule an appointment. We’ll have you enjoying ice cream again in no time!