It comes out of nowhere. You’re sipping a cup of hot coffee and all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your tooth. It happens again when you eat ice cream or drink orange juice. Sensitive teeth that react to heat, cold, sugar, or acidity can take the joy out of your favorite foods and beverages, and, more importantly, they can be a sign of a serious problem. Our family dentist in Fuquay Varina is sharing what causes tooth sensitivity and what you can do about it so you can make pain a thing of the past.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
To understand why your teeth become sensitive, first, let’s look at how teeth are made up. When your teeth are in good condition, the exposed part, called the crown, is coated in a layer of dense, hard enamel. Under the gumline, there’s a layer of cementum to protect the root of the tooth. Beneath both your enamel and cementum is a softer material called dentin which contains microscopic canals, called tubules, that run through the interior of the tooth.
When the enamel or cementum is no longer there, anything that touches your teeth can reach the nerves within your tooth by way of the tubules, and certain things, such as temperature, sugar, and high acidity can react with the nerve and cause severe pain. Even cold air hitting the tooth can trigger that painful reaction!
Acute Tooth Sensitivity
There are times you may experience temporary sensitivity, such as when you’ve had a tooth filling placed. Sometimes the procedure may cause a slight irritation or inflammation of the nerve inside the tooth, and as it heals, the sensitivity will go away, typically in a few days or a week.
Teeth whitening can also cause mild sensitivity for a few days because the peroxide solution can affect the minerals within the enamel, causing microscopic pores to form. That allows heat, sugar, and other triggering materials to reach the dentin, and then the nerve. Healthy teeth do remineralize, so sensitivity is temporary.
Chronic Tooth Sensitivity
For chronic, ongoing sensitivity in your teeth, this can be caused by several factors:
- Tooth decay or cracked teeth;
- Worn or missing fillings;
- Receding gums
- Worn tooth enamel
All of these factors allow exposure, whether direct or indirect, to the root of the tooth. When gums recede, the cementum has worn away in most cases, which allows heat and cold to hit the root of the tooth, whereas worn tooth enamel is porous and allows the dentin to be vulnerable.
Treatments for Sensitive Teeth
The good news about having sensitive teeth is that it is treatable. If the cause is tooth decay, worn fillings, or cracked teeth, your family dentist can repair the issue, either by filling the cavity, or, in more severe cases, with a root canal and crown.
For receding gums, there are procedures that can be done, including gum grafting. This removes excess gum tissue and grafts it in places where the root is exposed to restore protection to the area.
For weak or porous enamel, the most common treatments include:
- Toothpaste for sensitive teeth that contains compounds that stop sensation between the crown and the nerve.
- Fluoride gel to strengthen tooth enamel
- Dental bonding to correct a problem with the tooth and add protection
Most important, maintaining good dental health will prevent and treat teeth sensitivity. Brushing twice a day, flossing, and avoiding sweets will keep your teeth and gums healthy, and scheduling a dental checkup every six months will allow your dentist to provide you with continued support to keep your teeth healthy.
Schedule an Appointment with Our Family Dentist in Fuquay Varina
If you are in the Fuquay Varina area and are struggling with sensitive teeth, we can help. Request an appointment using our scheduling form or give us a call at 919-552-2431 today so you can eat, drink, and be merry and pain-free while you do it.