When you have sensitive teeth, one sip of an iced latte or a bite of hot pizza will send waves of intense pain through your body. Some people can feel discomfort just from cool or warm air passing through their mouth. If any of this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Approximately 40 million adults in the United States experience tooth sensitivity, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). The condition can be managed, but first, you need to know what’s causing it. There are a number of reasons your teeth have become sensitive to either cold and hot, or both.
WHY ARE MY TEETH SO SENSITIVE?
In general, sensitivity occurs at or near the neck of the tooth or gumline. Often the part of the tooth that becomes sensitive is the dentin that is exposed due to the wearing of the outer protective layers of enamel and cementum. However, sensitivity also can result from a cavity, a lost or loose filling, or an exposed root surface. The majority of sufferers fall into the latter category.
WHAT CAUSES EXPOSED ROOTS?
The crowns of our teeth are covered by enamel which is the hardest substance in the human body. Under the gumline, a layer called cementum protects the tooth’s root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum, these tubules allow cold foods and beverages to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. And when these nerves are struck, you FEEL it.
WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT SENSITIVE TEETH?
Some people manage sensitivity with over the counter products. Here are five easy things to try:
- Change your toothbrush! — Try a softer bristled brush and while you’re being kinder to yourself, brush more gently. If you have used a manual toothbrush, consider changing to an electric.
- Avoid acidic foods. — Limit foods like carbonated drinks, coffee, citrus fruits, and even yogurt.
- Wear a mouthguard. — Teeth grinding can wear away tooth enamel leaving your teeth sensitive the next day. A mouthguard can help keep you from grinding.
- Switch toothpaste. — Select a toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth. You’ll find plenty of these in the drugstore.
- Fluoridated mouthwash. — Use daily.
WHAT IF THAT’S NOT ENOUGH?
If you try these tips and find that you’re still getting a “zing” when you sip on something hot or cold, there are dental procedures that you should discuss with your dentist:
- Bonding, crowns, or inlays. — These may fix a tooth flaw or decay that is causing sensitivity.
- Fluoride gel or varnish.
- Surgical gum graft. — This will protect the root and reduce sensitivity if the gum tissue has eroded from the root.
- Root canal. — This is a last-resort treatment for severe tooth sensitivity that has not been helped by other methods.
Sensitive teeth get in the way of everyday life, perhaps more than you realize. Once you’ve become used to the discomfort, you start avoiding things you enjoy, sometimes causing serious situations to exacerbate. As soon as you notice any mouth pain, address it. Your body is telling you something isn’t as it should be.
If you have questions about tooth sensitivity or any dental matters, contact us! Asheville Dental wants you to have a brilliant smile regardless of the temperature.