Why are My Teeth Sensitive?


Cortney Davis, RDH

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints among dental patients. It’s estimated that around 40 million people suffer from sensitive teeth in the United States. There are many reasons why your teeth can become sensitive and we are going to be discussing some of those reasons.

A common reason teeth are sensitive is because of exposed areas of a tooth. This happens when movement of fluid goes through tiny tubes located in the dentin (the layer which contains the inner pulp, found beneath the hard enamel), which results in nerve irritation. When enamel is worn down or gums have receded, pain can be caused by eating, drinking hot or cold beverages, or exposing them to cold air. There are different products that can help with tooth sensitivity due to worn down enamel or gum recession. There is toothpaste, such as Sensodyne toothpaste that contains desensitizing agents that protects the exposed dentin by blocking the tubes in the teeth that are connected to nerves. Most people that use sensitive toothpaste notice a difference around 2-4 weeks. Dentists also have a variety of regimens to help patients manage tooth sensitivity as well, so if you’re experiencing frequent tooth sensitivity be sure to talk to your dentist.

Another common cause of tooth sensitivity is brushing with too much force or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. Overtime, people can wear down the protective layers of their teeth. The simplest solutions are to switch to a toothbrush with soft bristles and to be gentler when brushing.

The third thing that causes tooth sensitivity is grinding your teeth. Even though your tooth enamel is the strongest substance in your body, excessive grinding can wear down the enamel which can also expose the dentin. It’s important to talk to your dentist about getting a night guard that helps people stop grinding on their teeth. The best guards are custom-made to fit a patient’s bite.

Another common cause of tooth sensitivity is excessive plaque left on the tooth. The purpose of brushing and flossing is to remove plaque that forms on your teeth. An excessive build-up of plaque can cause tooth enamel to wear away, which as stated previously can cause your teeth to become more sensitive. If gingivitis or gum disease is the problem, your hygienist alongside with the dentist will come up with a plan to treat the underlying disease.

A cracked tooth or decay can also cause tooth sensitivity. A chipped or cracked tooth can cause pain that goes beyond tooth sensitivity. Your dentist will need to evaluate the sensitive tooth and decide what treatment is best for you. Also, if you have a cavity and it is left untreated it can become larger causing tooth sensitivity.

If your sensitivity persists or is extreme, be sure to visit your dentist for an evaluation. The dentist and hygienists can determine the most likely cause and give you the best solution for your particular situation.

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