Unless you have spent time looking at a diagram of the teeth, many are under the impression that the thick enamel covering goes far deeper into the tooth than it actually does.
This is important for a variety of reasons, the most striking of which is that it proves teeth can be delicate.
Each tooth has nerve endings and roots buried deep below the enamel and dentin layers of our teeth. These nerves, when triggered, can create pain and sensitivity ranging from mild tooth discomfort all the way through severe and persistent pain. This pain, however, is not always a sign of cavities or more serious dental problems.
Sometimes it’s simply the cause of sensitive teeth.
The good news is those sensitive teeth when managed early and with care, can become far less painful over time. Read below to learn more about what you can do to stop tooth sensitivity in its tracks.
What Causes Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity is caused by the demineralization of the outer layer of the tooth, called enamel. This demineralization causes the inner layers of the tooth to be more exposed to irritants such as hot or cold temperatures, acidic foods, and sugary foods.
Demineralization occurs for many reasons, most of which can be traced back to inappropriate dental practices. These include:
- Using too much force when brushing
Even though our teeth have a hard exterior, through incorrect brushing habits we can wear down this outer protective layer. Using a hard bristle toothbrush and too much force can not only deteriorate our enamel, it can also create problems with receding gum lines later on.
- Gum Recession
Related to poor oral health or overly vigorous brushing, receding gum line is when the soft gum tissue pulls back from the bottom of the teeth. As the gums recede further, the roots of the teeth become exposed. As these are less protected by enamel, they will not only be more sensitive when exposed, but also be more prone to damage and decay.
- Cracks, Clenching, and Grinding
According to the Sleep Foundation, 8% of adults grind their teeth at night. Grinding behaviors, in addition to clenching, can further weaken and damage the enamel of the tooth. This increases your risk for cracks and overall tooth weakness, making sensitivity an inevitable side effect.
- Using bleaching and whitening products
Whether in-office or at-home, tooth whitening products have one thing in common: they generally rely on strippin the outer layer of the tooth to reduce the appearance of stains. Just like a scrape causes skin sensitivity, whitening can be irritating to many individuals in the days and weeks following treatment.
Even if your oral hygiene is in top condition, eating sugary and acidic foods will naturally corrode the enamel over time. This can cause sensitivity and even tooth decay, especially if good brushing habits are not in place.
For individuals who show one of more of these risk factors for tooth sensitivity, they may be wondering what their treatment options are and how to get the best dental care for their concerns.
While it’s always wise to speak with your dentist about what is best for your condition, we have outlined some common and successful treatment methods below.
The good news about tooth sensitivity is that there are many successful home remedies that can help ease the pain of persistent sensitivity. These are generally measures that can be included in your existing oral hygiene rituals and will contribute to greater oral health overall.
One of the most common methods of easing tooth sensitivity is through the use of desensitizing toothpaste. These are toothpastes which contain a variety of desensitizing agents such as Metal Ions, Potassium, and Oxalates.
While desensitizing toothpastes take several uses to start taking effect, many find that these reduce sensitivity over sustained daily use.
A 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water is a common and effective oral antiseptic. Through using this as a mouth rinse, you not only reduce the likelihood of cavities and stains on the tooth surface, but also reduce inflammation overall.
Salt Water Rise
Similar in qualities to hydrogen peroxide, salt water rinses can be a powerful antiseptic and anti-inflammatory tool. However, unlike peroxide, there is often no added benefit of mild whitening.
For individuals who experience more severe or widespread pain than cannot be managed through other methods, there are several types of sensitivity treatments you can receive in-office to help reduce pain.
While fluoride is a common additive in many toothpastes, sometimes a more intense treatment is needed to better protect the teeth. In these cases, you can ask your dentist to apply a strong fluoride gel as part of your cleaning to help act as a buffer for the surface of your tooth. As an added bonus, this gel also prevents cavities by helping remineralize the surface of the tooth.
For individuals who experience most of their sensitivity at the gum line, the cause is normally exposed tooth roots that come along with gum recession. This is caused either by age-related gum shrinkage or brushing too hard.
In either situation, a dentist may recommend reconstructing or sealing the gum tissue to better protect the roots of your teeth. In extreme cases, a surgical gum graft may be recommended to better build up and secure the remaining gums around your teeth.
When a sensitivity is local to a single tooth and caused by underlying conditions such as cracks or decay, it might be time to either perform a root canal or extract the tooth. Which option is best depends on your exact situation and should be discussed with your dentist.
Visible Signs of Sensitivity
Like tooth pain, tooth sensitivity in and of itself is not a dental condition rather, it is a symptom of other dental pathologies ranging from tooth decay to gum disease. As such, many individuals experience tooth sensitivity without any visible signs of a problem.
If your sensitivity persists, it’s always recommended to schedule an appointment with your dentist. After an exam, your dentist may recommend a course of action to manage your sensitivity or catch an issue that requires more extensive dental procedures such as root canals, crowns, or extractions.
Dental Experts in Mesa
While we like to be a source of information for anyone researching on the internet, East Valley Dental Professionals has its actual home in Mesa, Arizona. Established in the 1980s, we take great pride in having local clients who receive the best dental care and the best service.
Are you located in Arizona? We are ready to assist you with all of your dental health needs. Please call us at 480-838-3033 to speak to a professional, get your questions answered, and schedule a consultation. We are only one call away from a healthier smile.