Tooth sensitivity is when you feel a sharp, quick pain when your tooth comes into contact with certain objects. Tooth sensitivity is typically stimulated by cold, hot or sweets. For instance, eating an ice cream or chewing on candies may trigger your tooth sensitivity. Having sensitive teeth is not fun! Tooth sensitivity can cause you to avoid eating certain food objects. Let’s examine some common types of tooth sensitivity to better understand this phenomenon:
Localized tooth sensitivity
Localized tooth sensitivity is when you’re sensitive on a single tooth. The most common causes of localized tooth sensitivity are dental cavities and cracked teeth. You shouldn’t ignore your sensitive tooth. If left untreated, it’s your sensitive tooth will turn into a full blown toothache before you know it! The sensitivity is your bodies way of telling you that you need to see a dentist before your tooth becomes more painful or infected.
Thankfully, localized tooth sensitivity can easily be fixed with a dental filling or crown. Of course, this only applies if you catch the problem in its earlier stages. As the cavity or crack deepens within your tooth, it eventually reaches the tooth nerve. This causes infection which leads to severe toothache. Unfortunately, your tooth now requires a root canal treatment or it must be removed! As you can see, the sooner you address your sensitive tooth, the better the outcome.
Generalized tooth sensitivity
Generalized tooth sensitivity is when you have multiple sensitive teeth in your mouth. The most common cause of generalized tooth sensitivity is receding gums. Receding gums refers to the loss of supporting gum tissue that protects your teeth. As you lose your gum tissue, your roots start to become exposed. As a result, you will experience sensitivity on not just one, but several teeth, sometimes even all of your teeth.
Gum recession is typically the result of brushing your teeth too hard. While hard to imagine, brushing too forcefully can actually damage your gums! The best solution here is to learn to brush your teeth correctly. Stop pressing so hard and instead learn to apply gentle, circular motions. Be sure to only use a soft toothbrush. Replace your old toothbrush periodically, as worn out and abrasive bristles damage your gums.
Loss of tooth enamel
Another causes of generalized tooth sensitivity is the loss of your tooth enamel layer. Enamel is the outermost tooth layer that protects your teeth. Your teeth become sensitive if the enamel layer becomes too thin. Here are a few different reasons why you could lose your tooth enamel:
- Consuming too much acidic foods and drinks
- Carbonated sodas
- Persistent vomiting or acid exposure as seen in Bulimia Nervosa or GERD
- Heavy tooth grinding
- Constantly clenching your teeth
- Having multiple crowns or porcelain teeth that oppose natural teeth
- Aggressive tooth brushing habit
- Generally weak tooth structure
To fix generalized tooth sensitivity, you first need to figure the cause of your sensitivity. Next, you need to figure out a solution to protect your tooth enamel. For instance, if your diet is causing enamel loss, then you need to modify your eating habits. If your stomach acid is responsible for enamel loss, then you need to treat your underlying medical condition, drink lots of water, and brush more frequently. Clenchers and tooth grinders need to relax and start wearing a custom nightguard. Finally, if your damaging your teeth due to aggressive brushing, then you need to modify your brushing habits and find a new toothbrush or switch to an electric toothbrush if you think if might help.
Temporary tooth sensitivity
Occasionally, your tooth sensitivity may be temporary in nature. Temporary tooth sensitivity usually goes away within a few weeks or months. Here are a few examples of temporary tooth sensitivity:
New filling or crown
A new filling or crown.commonly causes temporary tooth sensitivity. These types of sensitivities go away within a few weeks or months. If your sensitivity persists for more than 2 to 3 months, or if it worsens, then you must have it evaluated by your dentist. It could be that your filling or crown needs to be adjusted or redone. Contact your dentist to see if they want you to wait or if it’s time to go back for a follow-up appointment.
Teeth whitening sensitivity
It’s also common to experience temporary tooth sensitivity after whitening your teeth. The vast majority of these sensitivities go away within a couple of days or weeks. The only exception is if you use a very high concentration of bleaching gel in an unsupervised setting. You can actually end up with permanent tooth sensitivity if strong bleaching gel is not applied properly. This is exactly why you should never use a high concentrations of bleaching gel without proper dentist supervision.
Plaque & tartar buildup
Temporary tooth sensitivity is can also be caused by plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth. Luckily, a professional dental cleaning is all that’s need to resolve this. However, if left untreated, plaque and tartar lead to periodontitis, infection, and other serious conditions which result in permanent tooth sensitivity. Be sure to maintain regular dental cleanings to prevent your teeth from becoming more sensitive.
How to resolve tooth sensitivity?
The first step to resolving tooth sensitivity is to figure out the source of your sensitivity. Note your symptoms and discuss them with your dentist.
- Is your tooth sensitivity localized or generalized? If localized, on which tooth do you feel it the most? If generalized, are you sensitive on all four corners of your mouth or only a few?
- How long does your tooth sensitivity last for? Seconds, minutes, or hours
- What triggers your tooth sensitivity? Hot, cold, sweets, biting, etc.
- Does your sensitivity worsen at a certain time of day? Mornings, nights, all day, etc.
Once you figure out the source of your tooth sensitivity, you can start coming up with an appropriate solution. Your dentist may recommend a Fluoride toothpaste, gel, or rinse to help strengthen your teeth. They may recommend wearing a custom nightguard for more serious conditions. The most advanced cases will require crowns, root canals, and other invasive dental procedures. Don’t wait until your sensitive tooth become a full-blown toothache. Contact your dentist today and get your sensitivity under control before it’s too late!