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What You Should Know about Sensitive Teeth

Woman biting appleIf your teeth cause you pain or discomfort when eating something hot, cold, sweet or sour, you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity. Symptoms of sensitive teeth, usually a sharp or sudden pain, can also be provoked by cold weather or even by simply being touched. Here are some of the potential causes of tooth sensitivity and what you can do to better cope with the symptoms.

Why Sensitive Teeth are so Painful

Dentin is the underlying layer of our tooth that would normally be protected by our gums. Gum recession leaves our dentin, and the dentinal tubules, exposed. Dentinal tubules are channels that lead to our nerve centre (also referred to as the pulp). When they are left exposed, by not have the enamel or gum tissue for protection, they allow the stimuli to reach the nerve of the tooth.

Causes and Preventative Measures

  • Aggressive Brushing: Brushing your teeth with excessive force can promote tooth sensitivity in two ways. First, it can wear down the enamel of the tooth, exposing the dentin. Second, it can lead to gum recession which also leaves the dentin of your tooth exposed. Avoid brushing too vigorously and ensure that the bristles of your toothbrush are not too hard. Try using a soft bristled toothbrush and be especially gentle around the gum line.
  • Gingivitis (Gum Disease): Gum disease is a known cause of gum recession, inflammation and sore gum tissue. It may cause tooth sensitivity by leaving the surface of the roots exposed. There are many causes of gingivitis, but basic oral health, with regular brushing and flossing, play a large part in prevention.
  • Teeth Grinding: Consistent grinding of teeth may wear down the enamel overtime and leave the dentin exposed. Mouth guards may help reduce the impact of teeth grinding.
  • Broken Teeth: Chips, cracks or holes in the tooth may allow for bacteria to enter the pulp and cause inflammation and pain. Damaged or broken teeth should not be ignored, prevent further complications by seeing your dentist right away.
  • Your Age: Tooth sensitivity is said to reach its peak between the ages of 25 and 30.
  • Tooth Whitening Products: Tooth whitening products are known to cause or exasperate tooth sensitivity. This includes whitening toothpastes, strips, trays and any product containing baking soda or peroxides. If you’re considering tooth whitening, be sure it is done correctly under the supervision of an experienced professional.
  • Post Dental Work: Some dental procedures may temporarily cause tooth sensitivity. Sensitivity caused by tooth restorations, cleanings or crown replacements is normal and should subside in between four to six weeks.
  • Mouthwashes: Many over the counter mouthwashes contain acids that may promote tooth sensitivity. Ongoing use of these products can worsen tooth sensitivity by further wearing down the enamel meant to protect your dentin. There are however neutral fluoride solutions available that can actually help reduce sensitivity, speak to your health care professional to learn more about alternative options.
  • Highly Acidic Foods: Frequent consumption of acidic foods like citrus, sodas and certain fruits and vegetables can contribute to the erosion of your enamel. Try limiting frequent consumption of highly acidic foods, or use a straw to avoid contact with the teeth when drinking acidic beverages.


Additional Solutions to Reduce Sensitivity

Use Desensitizing Toothpastes: There are tons of toothpastes available at your local drugstore formulated to target sensitive teeth, it just may take some time to figure out which brand works best for you. These products work best if used regularly and begin to show results after two to three weeks of use.

Consider Dental Procedures: Your dental care professional can help you find the best solutions to help you deal with tooth sensitivity. Some options may include:

  • Replacing Fillings: Silver fillings may contribute to tooth sensitivity, replacing them with alternative materials may solve the problem. If an existing filling is becoming increasingly painful, have it looked at by a professional. White fillings, or bonding, are also sometimes used to cover roots that have become exposed.
  • Coatings: Dentists can also help create a shield for your teeth with different kinds of coatings, like fluoride, to reduce sensitivity.

As a general rule, if the pain you experience from tooth sensitivity lasts more than a minute, make an appointment to see your dentist. For more information or to book an appointment today, contact us at (416) 927-9085.