If you have ever experienced tooth pain after eating an ice cream cone or taking a sip of hot coffee, you know that tooth sensitivity can be very irritating. Although tooth pain is never a welcome sensation, know that you are not alone. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, up to 40 million people experience tooth sensitivity at some point. What causes tooth sensitivity and what treatments are available to ease the symptoms?
What does “tooth sensitivity” mean?
Tooth sensitivity refers to pain or discomfort while eating or drinking hot, cold, or acidic foods. Even the cold air outside can trigger a bout of tooth sensitivity! This sensation is often described as a sharp pain that shoots throughout the affected tooth or teeth.
Causes of tooth sensitivity
But what causes certain teeth to be predisposed to this sensitivity? Often, sensitivity issues occur when the dentin, or tooth’s root, is exposed. As tooth enamel erodes or is damaged, the enamel loses the ability to shield the dentin from irritating substances. Understanding the cause of your tooth sensitivity can play a role in how you treat your condition. Common causes of tooth sensitivity include:
- Diet: The food and drink choices we make play a large part in sensitivity issues. Acidic drinks like soda can wear down enamel quickly, causing the dentin to be at risk of sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
- Wearing down enamel during brushing: Using an abrasive toothpaste or brushing vigorously can prematurely wear down enamel.
- Aging: The National Institutes of Health estimate that the peak of tooth sensitivity is in individuals aged 30-40. The structure of teeth may change as we age, enamel can be worn down over time, and receding gum lines can contribute to exposed dentin.
- Cracked or chipped tooth: Injuries to a tooth can also expose the sensitive dentin.
- Teeth grinding
- Teeth whitening treatments: Sensitivity is often cited as a common side effect of such treatments. Although, in this case, it tends to be temporary sensitivity.
What types of treatment are available?
If you’ve experienced tooth sensitivity, your dentist may be able to help you find relief. The first step is to determine the cause of your sensitivity, as treatments will vary depending on the cause. Is diet to blame? If so, making a few dietary changes, such as eliminating soda, can help prevent further enamel erosion. Is a vigorous brushing routine to blame? If so, that can also be amended by switching toothpaste and using more gentle brushing strokes; your dentist will be able to suggest an appropriate toothpaste and rinse for sensitive teeth.
If your dentist determines that your tooth sensitivity is caused by more advanced issues, like a chipped tooth, you will have to address that problem before the sensitivity can be resolved.
Do hot, cold, and acidic foods make you cringe?
You don’t need to avoid hot coffee, ice cream, or lemon water any longer. Contact us today, and we can get you on the path towards relief!