Tooth Sensitivity: Potential Causes And Dental Treatment Options
It is estimated that one out of every two people suffers from sensitive teeth, a condition called dentin hypersensitivity. When you consume food or beverages that are hot or cold, your teeth may feel painful. With severe cases, the pain may even occur from a cold blast of air.
A dentist’s attention is usually necessary to help resolve the problem once it develops. But it can be prevented from developing in the first place. In this article, we’ll present the factors that contribute to sensitive teeth, and explain how the pain occurs. We’ll also describe how dentists treat the condition.
What Factors Cause The Teeth To Become Sensitive?
It’s helpful to be familiar with the anatomy of a tooth. Each is capped with a crown of enamel. Most people think the tooth’s pulp (or nerve tissue) lies directly underneath the enamel. In reality, there is a layer of tissue called dentin that lies between the two. Unlike enamel, dentin extends beneath the gumline. It becomes exposed when the gums recede.
Dentin can become exposed for a number of reasons. Aggressive brushing, periodontal disease (e.g. gingivitis), and a habit of grinding your teeth can all cause the gumline to recede. Toothpastes that contain peroxide and products designed to whiten your teeth can worsen the problem. Once dentin is exposed, eating citrus foods and using certain types of acidic mouthwashes will cause further sensitivity.
Origin Of The Pain: Why A Tooth Feels Sensitive
Dentin is composed of microscopic tunnels, or channels, that extend to the tooth’s root. These channels are filled with fluid that becomes stimulated when exposed to something cold (e.g. ice cream) or hot (soup). When this happens, the root becomes irritated, which leads to a sensation of pain.
Even though the pain may come and go, the underlying problem (exposed dentin) will remain until it is resolved by a dentist. In fact, the sensitivity will become more pronounced over time. A lot of people learn to ignore the issue by chewing hot and cold food on the side of their mouths where the dentin is not exposed. This is a short-term solution. Unless treated, their gumline will continue to recede, making it increasingly difficult to brush their teeth.
Treating The Condition Before It Advances
Make an appointment with your dentist, so he or she can inspect your teeth. The pain you feel may be caused by something other than dentin exposure (e.g. tooth decay, etc.). In some cases, the exposure is due to an erosion of enamel rather than receding gums. Your dentist can examine the problem, and recommend the most suitable form of treatment.
Assuming the sensitivity stems from dentin exposure, your dentist will likely apply a fluoride gel or varnish (or both) to the area. The fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel of the tooth. A bonding solution may also be applied in order to seal the exposed surface. This helps to prevent hot and cold food and beverages from making contact with it, and causing pain.
Your dentist will also recommend that you brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush. This will prevent unnecessary irritation to the affected tooth’s surface. He or she can also provide a specially-fluoridated toothpaste to further strengthen the enamel. If you grind your teeth at night, consider wearing a mouth guard.
How To Prevent Tooth Sensitivity
The steps to preventing dentin hypersensitivity are the same as those you would follow to avoid cavities. Brush twice a day, floss daily, and make sure you make regular appointments with your dentist. It’s also a good idea to avoid sugary and acidic foods that can slowly cause the enamel of your teeth to erode. Lastly, if you plan to have your teeth whitened or bleached, use a desensitizing toothpaste during the week before the procedure.
Tooth sensitivity is easy to avoid, and simple to treat once it develops. As with any type of dental problem, hypersensitivity can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene habits.