Does brushing or flossing cause you to have pain in your teeth? Does drinking or eating hot or cold foods become a painful experience for you? If so you may be experiencing signs of sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is a common dental problem that involves discomfort or pain when encountering certain substances and temperature. The pain is often sharp and sudden, but it is temporary.
Tooth sensitivity results from irritation of the nerves in the tooth, which leads to pain or discomfort when teeth are exposed to hot, cold, and sweet or acidic foods and drinks. Healthy teeth have two outer layers that protect them. The top layer covers the crown of the tooth, which is the portion above the gum, and is called enamel. The lower layer protects the portion of the tooth below the gums and is called cementum. Underneath the enamel and cementum is a softer layer known as dentin. The dentin is filled with many microscopic tubules that run to the nerve of the tooth known as the pulp. When dentin loses it protective covering of enamel or cementum it exposes the tubules which contain the nerve endings of the pulp. This exposure is what causes the pain and discomfort because the nerve is no longer being protected.
There are many factors that can cause teeth to become sensitive. They range form brushing to hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush, clenching and grinding, whitening, gum disease or poor oral hygiene, and having teeth with cavities or cracks. As we discuss each of these topics you find that there is more than one cause of sensitive teeth.
Tooth sensitivity can come from brushing with too much force or with a hard-bristled toothbrush. Over time, it can wear down the protective layers of the teeth and expose the tubules that lead to the nerve of the tooth. When these tubules are exposed to hot or cold or to acidic or sticky foods, tooth sensitivity and discomfort can be the result. The simplest solution is to switch to a toothbrush with softer bristles and to be gentler when brushing.
Clenching and grinding teeth together can wear down the enamel. By doing so the dentin becomes exposed. It is important to talk to a dentist about finding a mouth guard that can stop the teeth from touching during clenching and grinding. The best guards are custom made to fit each individual.
Mouthwashes and whitening toothpaste have alcohol and other chemicals that can cause sensitivity for some people. If this occurs it is important to switch to a more neutral or alcohol free toothpaste and mouthwash.
Gum disease and poor oral hygiene can cause gum recession. This recession exposes the root surfaces of the teeth. There are many dental procedure that can be done to improve the damage done to the teeth and gums due to gum disease. Gum disease usually begins as a build up of plaque. The plaque contains bacteria that cause the enamel to wear away exposing the dentin. As the disease progresses it destroys the ligaments that attach the gums firmly to the teeth allowing the root surface to also become exposed. It is important to practice good oral hygiene at home as well as visit a dentist regularly for cleaning and exams to prevent this from occurring.
If a tooth has a cavity or crack, tooth sensitivity may occur. The dentist will evaluate the area to see what type of dental procedure is needed to fix the problem. Often people experience tooth sensitivity even after a procedure is done. This can last several months after the procedure, but does eventually improve with time. Many dentists will recommend fluoride treatments and sensitive toothpaste to help while the tooth is adjusting to treatment.
The good news is there are many ways to control sensitive teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly while using proper brushing and flossing techniques to thoroughly clean all parts of your teeth and mouth is an easy way to start. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently and carefully around the gum line. Use toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, there are several brands available. Regular use should make teeth less sensitive over time. You may need to try several brands to find the product that works best for you. Make changes to your diet avoiding acidic, sticky, and sweet foods and dinks. Use fluoridated dental products. Using a fluoridated mouth rinse daily can decrease sensitivity. Ask your dentist about products available for home use and see your dentist every 6 months or sooner, depending on your condition.
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