If you experience sudden sharp pain in your teeth after sipping hot coffee or taking a bite of ice cream, you may have sensitive teeth. It’s a very common condition, affecting over 40 million adults in the United States according to the Academy of General Dentistry, but just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s not incredibly unpleasant. To help you fix this issue so you can fully enjoy foods and drinks and not worry about pain, our Fuquay Varina dentist, Dr. Hamby, is sharing what causes sensitive teeth and how to treat it.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
First, let’s look at the anatomy of your teeth so you can see why extreme temperatures (even breathing cold air!), sweets, or sour foods can cause that sharp pain. The top of the tooth above the gumline has an exterior layer of enamel, a hard, nonporous material, and the tooth below the gumline has an exterior lining of cementum, a bone-like mineralized tissue. Both these protect the underlying layer of dentin.
Dentin is a softer material that contains small, hollow tubes. When the dentin is exposed, the hollow tubes, called tubules, allow heat, cold, sugar, or acidic substances to reach the nerves within the teeth which causes pain. So, now the question is what causes enamel to wear away or gum tissue to recede and exposing the dentin?
- Brushing too hard or using a toothbrush with hard bristles;
- Receding gums caused by poor oral hygiene
- Grinding your teeth
- Using tooth whitening products (though this is often temporary)
- Using acidic mouthwash
- Eating foods high in acidity, including citrus, tomatoes, and fruit juices
- Small cracks in the enamel caused by large fillings or crunching hard items like ice or candy
Also, tooth decay, cavities, and periodontal disease can cause tooth sensitivity because the nerves are often more directly exposed to substances that can trigger pain.
Ways To Treat Sensitive Teeth
If having sensitive teeth impacts your ability to enjoy your favorite foods or you are always worried about experiencing that sharp pain in your mouth, there are several things you can do to reduce the issue.
Practice Good Dental Hygiene
This is the most important step you can take to reduce tooth sensitivity and build back your enamel and gum tissue. Brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush, flossing once per day, and seeing your dentist for regular dental checkups are essential to removing plaque and tartar that can lead to enamel erosion.
Avoid Acid in Your Mouth
Highly acidic foods and beverages can wear away at your enamel, creating microscopic holes and exposing the dentin. Tomatoes, citrus foods and juices, soft drinks, and sodas all have higher acidity. While you don’t need to completely cut them out of your life (though sodas are terrible for your teeth on so many levels!), you should drink water to rinse and neutralize your mouth to stop any damage.
Increase Saliva Production
Saliva keeps your teeth rinsed throughout the day and helps build back minerals in your enamel. Drinking plenty of water, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, and chewing sugarless gum are all great ways to increase how much saliva you produce and keep your teeth healthy.
Adjust Your Toothpaste and Mouthwash
Consider using an over-the-counter toothpaste for sensitive teeth and a more neutral mouth rinse that will minimize pain and help build up your enamel.
Talk to Your Dentist
The most important thing you can do if you have sensitive teeth is to talk to your dentist. They can determine if the cause is due to cavities, weakened enamel, or receding gums and provide you with the right solution to improve your dental health and minimize or eliminate pain.
Schedule a Dental Checkup with Our Fuquay Varina Dentist
Tooth sensitivity can be incredibly uncomfortable and prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest. Fortunately, our dentists can provide solutions and improve the health of your teeth and gums. Schedule an appointment today by calling us at 919-552-2431 or filling out the form below to get started.