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Why are my teeth sensitive?

by Linda McGuire RDH


More than 40 million people suffer from tooth sensitivity.  What causes this sensitivity?

sensitive teeth

There are many things that can cause your teeth to be sensitive to temperature as well as pressure.  Here are some of those things.

1. Worn down enamel from aggressive brushing habits

2. Enamel erosion due to acidic foods and drinks

3. Decay

4. Gum recession

5. Grinding or clenching your teeth

6. After effect from dental treatment such as a filling or crown

What can you do to resolve or avoid sensitivity?

There are many sensitivity toothpaste products out there that can be used to treat sensitivity.  Each manufacturer makes a paste for sensitivity, so just pick your favorite product and try that. Sometimes, if you have a super sensitive area such as an area where you have severe recession, you can try putting a little pea sized amount of the sensitivity paste on your finger and dabbing it on that area.  Leave it on overnight and then brush as normal in the morning.  If you do this for a couple of weeks, that should help.  The reason that the sensitivity paste helps is due to being able to occlude the dentinal tubules or desensitize the nerve endings in the dentinal tubules using potassium ions.  The dentinal tubules are the small passageways to the nerves of your teeth.  When these are open or exposed, items such as cold or hot foods are able to quickly pass through to the nerves causing sensitivity.  These tubules become exposed when your enamel has eroded or abraded or when the gums recede and expose the roots of your teeth.

Another thing you can do is avoid abrasive toothpastes that have things such as whitening agents in them.  The abrasiveness of the paste can cause further abrasion to your enamel causing more sensitivity.  Avoid hard bristle toothbrushes.  ONLY use a soft bristle brush.  Make sure you are not “scrubbing” your teeth, instead use a massaging motion and make sure you are not pressing hard.  You will know if you are pressing too hard if your toothbrush begins to fray quickly after you start using it.  If this is happening and you can’t make yourself stop brushing hard, you may want to try an electric toothbrush and just make sure you don’t apply pressure.  Let the motor of the brush do the work for you.

If you are grinding your teeth, try using a night-guard to help with this issue.  These can be made in the dental office, which is the best option, or purchased over the counter at any store that sells tooth products.  Grinding your teeth can cause gum recession and areas where the root of your tooth becomes notched out.  This increases sensitivity around the gum-line.  It can also cause the shifting or changing the shape of your teeth, which can cause them to be out of alignment causing sensitivity when chewing or applying pressure.

Next, if you have sensitive teeth, make sure to avoid acidic foods and drinks such as orange juice, coffee, soda, citrus fruits, and sugar filled foods.

If you have old fillings or sealants in your mouth and are experiencing sensitivity, there is a chance that you may have decay under those old fillings or sealants.  You need to make an appointment to get those fillings checked.  New decay can also cause sensitivity.  So, if you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, you should set up an appointment for x-rays and dental check up.

If you notice that your gums are receding, these areas may need to be treated. It can be as simple as applying fluoride or another form of desensitizer to the area.  Sometimes, however, if the recession has become severe, a tooth colored bonded filling can be placed over the area to resolve the sensitivity.  At times, it may even require a crown if too much of the tooth structure is compromised. Sometimes, as a last resort, a procedure called a gingival graft may have to take place.  This is where skin from the roof of your mouth or other area in your mouth is removed and placed over the area that has recession.  This is normally only done when someone has very severe recession and the teeth are at risk of becoming loose. If you notice that your gums are pulling away from your teeth and exposing your root surfaces, give us a call today to set up an appointment for an evaluation.

If you miss eating that yummy ice cream or drinking water with ice in it, don’t hesitate to give us a call today and set up an appointment. We are here to help!

ice cream

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