Tooth Sensitivity: What Causes It and How to Prevent It
Tooth sensitivity can put you on edge. Come mealtime, a single bite into something too hot, cold, sweet or acidic, can send flares of sharp pain buzzing through your mouth. Tooth sensitivity can occur for a number of possible reasons, and the solution isn’t always the same. But one thing that’s universally true about tooth sensitivity is that it always warrants a visit to your dentist. Only a professional can rule out the possibility that significant dental issues are behind your discomfort.
Common causes of tooth sensitivity
The cause behind your sensitive teeth could be any of the following:
- A fractured tooth or filling.
- Gum disease.
- Dental decay.
- Naturally receding gum line.
- Brushing too hard, which strips away enamel, the tooth’s protective outer layer.
- Dental erosion caused by acids in foods and drinks that deteriorate enamel.
- Teeth bleaching treatments.
- Teeth grinding. This nocturnal habit—of which you might not even be aware—can cause enamel to be worn away and lead to tooth sensitivity.
Steps to take at home to decrease tooth sensitivity
Provided that your sensitivity isn’t caused by more serious oral health complications, there are a few things you can try at home that may help.
- Use a fluoride enhanced toothpaste specifically formulated for sensitive teeth.
- Modify your tooth brushing technique to be less aggressive.
- Swap out your old toothbrush for one that has soft or ultra soft bristles.
- Limit your intake of acidic and sugary foods and drinks.
- Discontinue teeth bleaching treatments.
- Use a mouth guard when you sleep if you suspect you grind your teeth.
Ways your dentist can helpIf none of the above strategies work, there are a number of ways that your dentist may be able to help eliminate tooth sensitivity.
- Application of fluoride treatments. Fluoride helps enamel naturally repair itself and treatments can be an effective solution for some. Fluoride can be applied as a varnish that gets painted on or as a gel or foam that’s administered using a mouth tray. Several treatments may be needed to see results.
- Application of a bonding agent. A layer of sealant is applied to sensitive teeth with exposed dentin, thereby insulating them with a protective barrier.
- Missing fillings may need to be repaired.
- Fractured teeth will need to be fixed or extracted, depending on the nature of the break.
- If the tooth is decayed, the cavity should be removed and replaced with a filling.
- A root canal may be required in serious cases.
- If you have gum disease, there are various treatments your dentist may suggest.