Ugh. That feeling, almost like a stinging sensation in your tooth. There’s no pain, quite like sensitive teeth. As though that sharp ache isn’t enough, it can end up ruining some of our favourite foods, like hot soup or ice cream cones.
While we all may experience tooth sensitivity from time to time, sensitivity can mean different things to different people. For some, it’s a natural response to a nerve being stimulated, such as biting into some ice cream or drinking something sugary. For others, it’s a sign of a cavity. Whether it’s a temporary or chronic problem, when it comes to sensitivity, you’ll be happy to know it can be treated. This article explores tooth sensitivity and what to do about it.
WHAT CAUSES SENSITIVE TEETH?
Dentin hypersensitivity happens when the dentin (the inner part of the tooth) becomes exposed. This develops over time from common conditions such as enamel wear and receding gums.
Thousands of little, microscopic channels run below our teeth, connected to the nerves inside. External triggers such as a cold beverage will stimulate the nerves, causing (usually) a sharp pain.
It’s important to consult with your dentist right away, cause only he/she can confirm dentin hypersensitivity. Your dentistwill find the cause of, and solution for the pain. For example, enamel wear (a leading cause in sensitivity) can be from grinding your teeth while you sleep, or brushing too often. Your dentist can help get to the bottom of your enamel wear and recommend a solution. This could be a mouth guard to prevent grinding while you sleep, or brushing with a soft or electric toothbrush. Think of it as finding a customized solution.
OTHER PROBLEMS LEADING TO SENSITIVE TEETH
- Tooth decay, such as worn-down fillings.
- Broken or chipped teeth that expose the dentin.
- Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) causes acid to rise from the stomach wearing down enamel over time.
- Other conditions that cause frequent vomiting such as bulimia and gastroparesis.
COMMON TRIGGERS TO STAY AWAY FROM
People with sensitive teeth may experience several painful sensations from a variety of triggers. This list includes some of the most common triggers, if you’re able to relate to any of them, consider booking an appointment:
- Brushing or flossing.
- Alcohol-based mouth rinses.
- Hot or cold food or beverages.
- Breathing in cold air.
- Sweet foods or drinks.
- Food or drinks that are acidic.
TREATING SENSITIVE TEETH
Pain usually is a sign of a problem, such as a cavity. Once the decay is removed and the dentin is protected again, the paingoes away immediately.
If it’s mild pain and not caused by any medical conditions or trauma to the tooth, you’ll probably find over-the-counter remedies work well. Try a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. It won’t have any irritating ingredients and can protect the tooth a bit when eating and drinking. It may also help to use a mouthwash that’s alcohol-free, and “soft” toothbrushes.
As for treating sensitivity caused by medical conditions, you’ll only see success if you treat the condition first. GERD, for example, is often treated with acid reducers. Teeth grinding can be treated with a mouthguard.
As professionals who help many sufferers with sensitive teeth, the best advice we can offer is to communicate with your dentist, often. He/she will help you understand why you’re experiencing sensitivity and what your best options are.