We’ve all had that sharp feeling before. You’re sipping some soup or having that morning coffee; you’re having a nice cold drink on a hot summer day or having some ice cream after dinner; you’re out and about early on a frosty morning and take a deep breath of that crisp, cool air–suddenly there’s a shot of pain that courses through your jaw that leaves you wincing, maybe even hunched over in an unexpected fit of pain.
Sometimes the pain from a sensitive tooth or multiple sensitive teeth is mild and manageable, other times it is quite acute and may make all types of activities difficult.
You’re not alone, studies suggest that 45% of Americans households have at least one person with sensitive teeth.
If you’re one of them, this post could help you understand the reasons better. And if you’re not, you’ll learn how to avoid tooth sensitivity.
So what exactly is causing your teeth to be so sensitive?
We’ll explain the very basics that you need to know to properly understand your sensitive teeth. Dentin is the inner substance of your teeth, covered by the hard external enamel layer. This inner substance contains tiny tunnels linking to the nerves inside your tooth. When the enamel wears down, dentin is exposed, particularly close to the gumline, meaning that these tiny tunnels are now also exposed to temperature and food which stimulates the nerves and causes the pain you feel.
Here we explore 8 of the most common reasons for sensitive teeth.
8. Overuse of toothpaste and/or mouthwash
Yes, toothpaste and mouthwash can in fact be harmful if overused. Many tooth whiteners, whitening toothpastes and some mouthwashes have peroxide-based bleaching solutions, acids, alcohol and other chemicals that remove stains. These stain-removing chemicals also remove the enamel on your teeth. Not only does this expose your dentin layer and nerves, it also exacerbates pre-existing tooth sensitivity by further damaging the dentin layer. When in doubt about the kind of toothpaste and mouthwash you should use, always check with your dentist!
7. You have excessive plaque
The purpose of flossing and brushing is to remove plaque that forms after you eat. An excessive buildup of plaque can cause tooth enamel to wear away. Again, your teeth can become more sensitive as they lose protection provided by the enamel. The solution is to practice good daily dental care and visit your dentist for cleanings every six months — or more frequently if necessary.
6. Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard
If you brush too hard or don’t use a soft brush, your gums can pull away from tooth roots. This can also wear away your enamel and expose dentin. Holes in the dentin are the tiny tubes that allow hot, cold, and sweet foods to affect tooth nerves.
5. Sensitivity after dental procedures
Although it sounds unfair, teeth can often become slightly more sensitive after dental procedures such as root canals, extractions, replacement crowns, and restorations, to name a few. However, this pain will usually subside in about four to six weeks.
4. Cracked or decayed teeth
Cracked or broken teeth mean that the nerve centre is more exposed, resulting in pain when you chew. These cracks, if left untreated, become filled with bacteria from plaque and cause inflammation in the nerve centre. Bacterial accumulation also leads to build up of acid and wearing down of the enamel layer. Cavities and decaying teeth expose the dentin layer as well as the roots of your teeth. Overall, cavities, cracks and worn down fillings in teeth all contribute to sensitive teeth.
3. Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth
Even though tooth enamel is the strongest substance in your body, grinding your teeth can wear down the enamel. By doing so, you expose the dentin, or the middle layer of the tooth, which contains the hollow tubes that lead to your nerves. Talk to your dentist about finding a mouth guard that can stop you from grinding. The best guards are custom-made to fit your bite.
2. You’ve got gum disease
The roots of your teeth have thousands of tiny tubes that carry feeling (hot, cold, sweet) to a nerve center known as the pulp. Usually the roots are covered by gum tissue. But if you have periodontal disease, that layer can pull away from teeth, exposing the ultra-sensitive root.
Receding gums, which are increasingly common with age (especially if you haven’t kept up with your dental health), can cause tooth sensitivity. If gum disease gingivitis is the problem, your dentist will come up with a plan to treat the underlying disease, and may also suggest a procedure to seal your teeth.
1. Overconsumption of acidic foods & beverages
Foods and beverages with high acidic content include tomato products, citrus fruits, pickles, tea, sports drinks, and carbonated drinks just to name a few. These foods and beverages increase erosion of enamel and exposure of dentin, and contribute to greater tooth sensitivity. Carbonated drinks are unhealthy in general, and should be eliminated from your diet. However, by no means should you completely cut out citrus fruits and other healthy but acidic foods. In such cases, it’s helpful to counteract the acidic effects with cheese, bananas, milk and other foods low in acidic content.
Be Good to Your Mouth
If you have sensitive teeth and are wondering why, we hope this post has addressed some of the concerns. Tooth sensitivity can be treated in a range of different ways, depending on your particular situation. At the end of the day, there’s nobody better equipped to address your needs than your dentist.
If you’d like to find out more about our treatments or speak to someone about any tooth sensitivity or pain you may have been experiencing, feel free to give New Age Dental a call at 760 298 3039, or drop us an email at [email protected] for a consultation!
Affordable Dental Services just a few miles away.