If ice cream or a sip of hot coffee causes you pain in your teeth, you may have sensitive teeth.  This is a common condition and affects around 45 million Americans. Luckily it is treatable.

What is tooth sensitivity?

teeth sensitive to cold and hotBeneath the enamel on your teeth is another material called dentin. Dentin contains microscopic tubes. When enamel begins to wear down or gums recede, the dentin becomes exposed. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the stimulation of cells within these tubes, causing a sharp pain when the area is exposed to hot or cold temperatures from food or beverages, or even the from the air.
Another cause of tooth sensitivity can be cracks in the tooth’s enamel. Extreme temperature changes cause teeth to expand and contract, over time tiny fractures can appear in the enamel. This can allow hot or cold temperatures to seep through these cracks to the nerves below the tooth enamel.

Cavities can be the culprit as well.  In fact, sensitivity to hot or cold foods is often a warning sign that a cavity is forming.  Also, fillings that repair cavities can become loose or fall out. This can cause hypersensitivity where the original cavity was cleared out.  

How to manage tooth sensitivity

Some toothpastes can actually increase tooth sensitivity, including whitening toothpastes as well as tartar control toothpastes.  However, there are toothpastes that are designed for people with sensitive teeth. These typically need to be used everyday for at least a month before you’re likely to notice any therapeutic benefits.

You should also be gentle with your teeth. Only use a soft bristle brush and do not brush your teeth too vigorously.  This can wear down the tooth’s root surface as well as the gums, exposing sensitive spots on your teeth.

Also avoid certain foods that can increase sensitivity, specifically acidic foods like citrus fruits and tomatoes.

When to see a dentist about tooth sensitivity

If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than a few days and reacts to both hot and cold temperatures, it is best to have the dentist take a look at the tooth.  Sometimes tooth sensitivity can be the result of decay or the infected root of a tooth. If this is the case a filling or possibly root canal treatment may be needed.

The dentist can also recommend a variety of treatment options, once decay and infection are ruled out, including take home products for personal use.

Caring for your teeth through regular oral hygiene can help prevent sensitivity due to decay or gum disease.  However, even with the best care, sensitivity can be the result of a cracked tooth or regular wear and tear. Your dentist can be helpful in knowing the best way to treat and manage sensitive teeth.

A healthier and whiter smile equals a happier you. Keep yourself smiling: Call us today.