Many people suffer from sensitive teeth- it's a common issue with simple solutions. Tooth sensitivity occurs when dentin, the underlying layer of your teeth, is exposed. Dentin is porous and allows hot, cold, sweet, and acidic substances to enter and stimulate the nerves and cells inside your tooth, resulting in discomfort. So...What causes sensitive teeth?
Worn Enamel. Brushing too hard, grinding your teeth, and eating lots of acidic food can cause the enamel of your teeth to erode. Enamel is the strongest substance in your body and protects your teeth. When your teeth lose their protective layer, dentin becomes exposed resulting in sensitivity.
Tooth Decay. Cavities and fractured teeth can cause sensitivity- if you have a sudden onset of sensitivity you should see your dentist right away and fix the problem before it gets worse.
Receding Gums. This can be the result of gum disease or brushing too hard. When your gums recede the root surface of your tooth becomes exposed- since there is no enamel on your tooth root, the dentin is exposed and causes sensitivity.
Whitening. Tooth whitening products are well known for causing sensitivity. As long as you stop using them, the sensitivity will disappear after a few weeks.
Now that you know what causes it, heres how to treat sensitive teeth:
Prevention. The best way to avoid sensitive teeth, and all oral health problems, is simply to take good care of your mouth. Brush at least twice a day, floss your teeth every day, and make sure to see your dentist every 6 months for a cleaning.
Desensitizing Toothpaste. Toothpastes, like Sensodyne, contain an FDA approved desensitizing ingredient (potassium nitrate) that desensitizes the nerve endings in dentin that cause sensitivity. When used over time, these toothpastes can build a protective barrier that blocks pain and sensitivity and keeps it from coming back.
Fluoride. Using fluoridated dental products daily, such as a fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste, can help decrease sensitivity.
Use a Soft Toothbrush. Toothbrushes that are too hard can wear down your enamel and cause gum recession. Always use a toothbrush that is labeled as "soft" and never "hard" or "medium".
See Your Dentist. When receding gums are causing sensitivity, your dentist can apply a seal to bond the tooth root. You may also have a cavity or cracked tooth that you are unaware of. In severe cases, a very sensitive tooth may need a root canal or other treatment to resolve the problem.