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Ouch! What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Discover what causes tooth sensitivity, common treatments, and how to prevent it.

The holiday season is just around the corner! Don’t let enjoying a hot cocoa by the fire be ruined by nagging sensitive teeth. Discover the underlying cause of tooth sensitivity and how to combat it this cozy season.

Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity:

  • Tooth Decay
  • Tooth Fractures
  • Gum Disease
  • Teeth Grinding
  • Enamel Erosion
  • Exposed Tooth Roots

Tooth sensitivity generally occurs when the protective layers of the teeth become worn down. The part of the tooth you can see, the crown, is protected by a layer of enamel. While the area of the tooth under the gums, the root, receives protection from a layer of cementum.

Underneath the enamel and centum is a less dense material that contains small hollow canals called dentin. When these protective layers become worn down, the canals in the dentin allow heat, cold, sweet, and acidic foods to reach the nerves inside the tooth, causing discomfort. Gum recession can also expose the dentin and lead to sensitivity. Treatment varies depending on what the cause of the sensitivity is.

Common Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity:

  • Desensitizing Toothpaste: These particular kinds of toothpaste have compounds that shield tooth nerves from triggers, such as hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks. Toothpaste for sensitive teeth is available drug stores or you may receive a prescription from the dentist for a certain type. Patients may need to use the toothpaste several times to experience the full benefits.
  • Fluoride Treatment: Irritants cannot penetrate through strong enamel. Fluoride strengthens the enamel, creating a stronger protective layer. In-office fluoride treatments are the most efficient way to receive fluoride.
  • Dental Restoration: Dental restorations can cure tooth sensitivity caused by decay or damage. Sensitivity typically disappears immediately after receiving a crown, inlay, or filling.
  • Gum Graft: When the gums recede, it can cause tooth sensitivity from the roots of the teeth being exposed. While gums cannot grow back on their own, dentists can place surgical gum grafts to protect the tooth roots and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root Canal: Root canals can treat persistent sensitivity that has not been relieved from less invasive treatments. This treatment removes the tooth’s nerves and pulp, eliminating any sensitivity.

Once enamel gets worn down, it will not come back! Taking precautionary measures to avoid wearing down the protective layers of the teeth is the best way to prevent tooth sensitivity. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and only applying gentle pressure while brushing can preserve these precious protective layers.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is crucial to schedule an appointment with your dentist or let them know at your next routine visit. They can provide an accurate diagnosis and suggest treatment options to help you enjoy all your favorite foods without the sensitivity.

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