What causes sensitive teeth? All your questions answered.
Do you struggle with sensitive teeth but you’re not quite sure why? We see patients every day who are sensitive to heat or cold and aren’t sure what to do next. Suddenly you find yourself unable to enjoy some of the foods you may have once loved and you’re at a loss as to what is causing your discomfort. So, we thought we would fill you in on all things ‘sensitive teeth’ with answers to our most common questions.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
Sensitivity to both hot and cold has to do with a triggered nerve in the ‘tooth pulp’. While there are many triggers for sensitivity, it tends to be linked to gum recession, and consequently, nerve ending exposure.
Everything from sweets to cold air can inflame the pulp and cause the short, sharp pain you are experiencing. Inflammation of the pulp and dentine exposure are also the result of tooth decay, a cracked tooth, or exposed dentine (which is simply the substance beneath your tooth enamel).
Most simply, in one way or another, in most cases there’s been damage to the tooth.
What are the most common triggers for sensitive teeth?
Sensitivity to heat or cold is normal for some people, even without damage, and there are a few things that might be triggering the pain. Such as:
- Changing your toothpaste: Some toothpastes can tend to be harsher than others, so be sure to look for a toothpaste that is made with sensitivity in mind.
- Consuming highly acidic substances: Things such as marinara sauce and soda drinks, among other things, have been known to increase sensitivity for some.
- Brushing too hard: Applying too much pressure or using the incorrect toothbrush for your mouth can also contribute to sensitivity. Take the time to make the correct choice.However, as mentioned above, heat and cold sensitivity in your teeth can also be a sign of a more serious problem. Identifying it early will allow you to receive the treatment you need.
What are the more serious causes for concern with Sensitive Teeth?
Other triggers for sensitivity include:
- A cavity or abscess: Sudden sensitivity to heat or cold can be a sign that there's a serious problem with your teeth. If the problem comes out of nowhere and continues to worsen, despite your best efforts to apply some of the solutions listed above, make sure you get to your dentist quickly.
- A problem with an existing filling or crown: Fillings that have chipped or worn away or crowns that have leaks or cracks can cause an increase in heat or cold sensitivity in your teeth.
- Gum recession: Gum recession involves the exposure of the root of the tooth. It can be caused by excessive brushing, gum disease, or because of age and can lead to greater nerve exposure. This in turn makes the tooth extremely sensitive.
- Worn down enamel: If your enamel is wearing down, this can result in your teeth becoming more sensitive to both heat and cold.
Could I be causing the damage and sensitivity?
The simple answer is, yes you could be contributing to the problem.
We mentioned some reasons briefly above, but one reason your teeth could be sensitive is thanks to hard brushing and abrasive toothpaste, or acidic foods such as fizzy juices, citrus, beer, or wine.
Additionally to these things, physical conditions such as gastric reflux, gum disease, and certain stomach problems will predispose a patient to tooth sensitivity.
Poor habits can also lead to problems, such as grinding your teeth or using whitening products too often. Both of these examples increase the likelihood of damage to your teeth and therefore, severe sensitivity.
Can I manage it and alleviate symptoms?
Reducing acidic food consumption (like those listed above) is advised. Talk to a health care provider about physical conditions, and break poor brushing and grinding habits. These changes, however, will not reverse the damage done.
This is why it's important to contact a dentist so they can help you determine any harmful habits attributing to your pain, as well as ways to prevent worsening.
At Morrin Dental, we find most patients are able to tame tooth sensitivity with ongoing 6-month cleanings, brushing twice each day with the correct technique, and maintaining correspondence when they've concerns.
Does Tooth Sensitivity Go Away?
One of the most important questions most patients have when it comes to tooth sensitivity is, "Will it go away?" The answer is, "Sometimes."
There are several circumstances under which tooth sensitivity will resolve:
- Temporary Sensitivity: Following a chipped or broken tooth or a normal filling, root canal, or other dental work, you may have temporary tooth sensitivity that will naturally resolve itself over time.
- Dental Problems: Sudden onset of tooth sensitivity can be a sign that you have a cavity, abscess, or other dental problem. Addressing the problem quickly will help resolve that sensitivity.
- Gum Disease: Gum disease or receding gums can cause tooth sensitivity that may be resolved as the problems are treated.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women deal with a host of changes to their body, and tooth sensitivity may be on the list! If this is a symptom for you, you may find that it resolves once your little one is born.
When to See Your Dentist about Sensitive Teeth
If you've been struggling with sensitive teeth, you shouldn't simply dismiss the problem. Identifying the underlying issues that can be related to tooth sensitivity will help you prevent further damage to your teeth and gums.
Gradual onset of heat or cold sensitivity may go virtually ignored over time. As your symptoms increase, however, you may find yourself struggling to deal with the increased discomfort. Any time symptoms show up quickly, you should see your dentist as soon as possible to make sure that there's not a bigger problem. Additionally, if you're noticing a gradual increase in normal tooth sensitivity, be sure to discuss it with your dentist at your next appointment.
Contact us today to treat your teeth sensitivity and get back to enjoying the foods and the life you once had!