Tooth Sensitivity: Why It Happens and What You Can Do About It

Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that people of any age can experience and typically is characterized by tooth pain and discomfort after consuming hot or cold foods and beverages. Some people also experience tooth sensitivity after having sweet or acidic foods and beverages or after exposing their teeth to cold temperatures outside. Tooth sensitivity can be frustrating to live with, but once you understand what causes it, you can start taking steps to reduce it.

Just how do teeth develop sensitivity in the first place? Well, each tooth contains a sensitive layer of dentin which is home to many nerve endings and protected by a much stronger outer layer of enamel. Unfortunately, this outer layer can become worn and damaged, exposing the dentin to acid, sugars, and temperature variations.

There are many different reasons enamel may become too thin to provide adequate protection for the dentin underneath. Tooth decay and gum disease are two of the leading causes of tooth sensitivity, as the plaque bacteria which causes both issues attacks tooth enamel as well. Enamel can also become worn due to bad habits such as brushing too hard and teeth grinding. Other factors which can cause the dentin to become exposed include cracked teeth, chipped teeth, and damaged or worn fillings.

Don't worry; tooth sensitivity doesn't usually mean that your teeth are severely damaged, especially if the sensitivity is mild. It is typically temporary and can usually be taken care of at home. The first step you should take is to improve your oral hygiene habits, making sure to brush for two full minutes at least twice a day and to floss daily as well. Using toothpaste specially formulated to reduce sensitivity can also help.

Even if your tooth sensitivity is mild, you should still bring it up with your dentist at your next routine check-up. For severe tooth sensitivity, however, you shouldn't wait until your next examination, especially if it isn't for a while. Make an appointment to have your teeth looked at as soon as possible.

Depending on the cause of your tooth sensitivity, your dentist may suggest some different treatment strategies. If not much dentin is exposed, then they will likely apply some fluoride to your teeth and recommend that you try using a good desensitizing toothpaste. You'll be asked to schedule a checkup as well.

For cases of severe tooth sensitivity and dentin exposure, a dentist may instead choose to apply dental sealants or even dental crowns to the affected teeth. Sealants and crowns can essentially act as a new layer of tooth enamel.

You don't have to learn to live with tooth sensitivity. With steps that you can take at home, and with the treatments your dentist, you'll probably be able to significantly reduce or even get rid of your tooth sensitivity altogether. Don't let sensitive teeth get the upper hand any longer.