Sensitive Teeth: Ow!

Garner Dentist Serving Patients From Cary, North Carolina and Surrounding Communities

That sharp, needle-like pain when something cold or something hot touches your teeth – that actually has a cause. It’s not something that only you have, many people around the world suffer from tooth sensitivity, but what causes it and what can be done to ease the pain?

Wear, Tear and Recession

When your gums recede, that exposes the dentin in your teeth. Dentin contains lots of microscopic tubules which lead right to the nerve center of your tooth – thus, when something hot or cold hits the exposed dentin? WHAM! Pain. Not pleasant at all.

Acid wear, the wearing away of your teeth’s protective enamel, also exposes the dentin to everything. Acidic fruits and fruit juices, wine, carbonated drinks and vinegar-based dressings soften tooth enamel and make it more susceptible to every day wear and tear.

Sensitivity Triggers

What triggers your sensitive teeth may be different from other people, but some common things are cold foods and drinks like water, ice cream, ice cubes and Popsicles; hot foods and drinks like soup and coffee; sweets like chocolate; breathing in cold air and brushing your teeth (especially if you rinse with cold water).

What triggers your sensitive teeth may not trigger another person’s! Pay close attention to your own triggers so that you’re better prepared for dealing with them.

Preventing Sensitivity

Using a soft tooth brush and only using moderate pressure when brushing can help prevent tooth sensitivity. Brushing and flossing correctly are key.

Treating Sensitivity

A fluoride rinse may help decrease sensitivity, especially if yours is caused by tooth decay. A desensitising toothpaste can also help – they fill in the tubules in your dentin and reduce sensitivity that way. I suggest applying the toothpaste at night directly to your teeth. Leave it on overnight, then brush normally in the morning (be sure to brush before you do this).

Other common at-home treatments are:

  • potassium salts
  • chewing gums
  • mouthwashes

Dental Office Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity

Your dentist may recommend special in-office treatments for dealing with your sensitive teeth. Ask them what they recommend, of course, and go with what you can afford. You may find that they simply recommend something that you can do at home and that doesn’t need to be done in the office – it all depends upon how severe your tooth sensitivity is.

  • dental sealants are fillings that are put over the exposed root(s)
  • night guard/retainer: if tooth grinding is causing sensitivity, you may be given one of these to wear.
  • fluoride treatments
  • laser therapy

Is Tooth Sensitivity a Sign of Something Bad?

Tooth sensitivity may be a sign of an underlying problem, such as gum disease. If one tooth is constantly sensitive (and only one tooth), that could be a harbinger of infected tooth pulp or a dying tooth. If desensitizing toothpaste doesn’t help after two weeks of constant use, if your teeth hurt for more than an hour, if the gums around a sensitive tooth change color and if you have very obvious dental decay, you need to go see your dentist. Something more serious is happening, and putting off the visit could be very, very bad for your smile.