If you have ever taken a bite of your favorite meal only to be met with a searing pain you know all too well the symptoms of sensitive teeth. Teeth that are prone to sensitivity may react to heat or cold or even the force of chewing food. Before you can effectively treat tooth sensitivity, you need to determine the cause of the sensitivity and your discomfort.
Possible Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Depending on your oral health, there can be a wide array of problems that cause sensitive teeth.
Worn Tooth Enamel
Tooth enamel acts as a hard shell that protects your tooth. Over time, enamel can be eroded by consistent exposure to acids. The damaging acids can be found in food, drinks and even your own saliva. Soft drinks, foods high in sugar, alcohol, acid reflux and genetics can all work together to weaken your enamel. Enamel can also be damaged by bruxism, or teeth grinding which may occur in your sleep. If you find yourself waking up with a clenched jaw or tension in your mouth, you should talk to your dentist about possible solutions.
Once the tooth enamel is damaged or worn, you may experience symptoms such as sensitivity to hot or cold or sugary foods or drinks. If your sensitivity is caused by issues with the enamel, your dentist may recommend several different treatments depending on the severity of your enamel loss. Possible solutions include dental bonding, crowns or veneers.
Receded gums or periodontal disease can leave your tooth roots exposed. Roots are made up of nerve pulp and dentin. When a root is exposed, it is unprotected by the hard layer of enamel and gums and becomes susceptible to varying temperatures often leading to tooth sensitivity.
Exposed tooth roots may be treated with something as simple as a desensitizing toothpaste and specialized toothbrush or may need to be addressed with a gum graft. Each patient’s needs will be specific to his or her current dental health.
Cavities and overall tooth decay are common contributors to sensitive teeth. Cavities can be caused by several things including bacteria, sugary foods and drinks and a lack of thorough cleaning. Plaque forms on the teeth and if not cleaned properly, continues to form a cavity and develops into an opening or hole in the tooth. As the cavity continues to grow it can inflame the pulp which may become swollen and irritated. All of this leads to heightened tooth sensitivity.
Treatment for cavities can vary depending on how far developed it is. If it is in the beginning stages, fluoride treatments and thorough cleanings may be enough to stem the tide. If the cavity is further developed, you may need a filling, crown, root canal or extraction to resolve the cavity and alleviate the pain.
Chip or Cracked Teeth
If you have pain when biting down or chewing you may have a chipped or cracked tooth. Damage like this can occur when you grind your teeth or suffer an injury such as a blow to the mouth. There are many different types of cracks and your dentist may perform a number of tests. Visual examination, use of dental dye, and X-rays can all help your dental professional find a crack if one is present. Cracks and their symptoms can vary greatly that treatment can range from leaving your tooth as is to extraction and many options in between.
Gum disease is a bacterial infection and common symptoms include bleeding or red and swollen gums, excess plaque, bad breath and the presence of pus. There are many different stages of gum disease and they can all contribute to the pain that comes with tooth sensitivity. Gum disease if left untreated in extreme cases can lead to tooth loss.
The first step in combating gum disease is to remove the damaging bacteria and keep your teeth and gums clean. This removes the destructive germs and prevents them from coming back. You also need to maintain regularly scheduled visits with a dentist. A dentist can access areas you can’t reach and can perform deep cleanings to make sure that the plaque and bacteria are removed. There are also surgical options to help eliminate pockets that have formed and repair bone loss and damage.
With so many causes of sensitive teeth, the best way to rid yourself of this discomfort is to work with an experienced dental team and get to the root of the problem. If you find yourself a victim of tooth sensitivity, call our office today.