Millions of Americans suffer from sensitive teeth. If you’ve ever taken a bite of ice cream or a spoonful of hot soup and experienced a sudden discomfort in one or several of your teeth, you know that teeth sensitivity can be painful. What causes sensitive teeth, and what can you do to alleviate the symptoms?
Do I Have Sensitive Teeth?
Tooth sensitivity is caused by irritation to the nerves inside a tooth. This irritation can lead to pain or discomfort when you eat or drink anything too cold or too hot. Not all tooth pain is due to sensitivity. If the pain is sharp or lingers, you may have a more serious condition and should contact your dentist.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
The nerves in your teeth are protected by an outer layer of enamel and an inner layer of dentin. Sensitivity occurs when these protective layers are damaged by erosion or layers of decay. Genetics play a role in the strength of your enamel, but there are many other factors that impact the health and strength of your tooth enamel. Erosion can be caused by drinking highly acidic beverages like soda and fruit juice. Conditions like acid reflux and taking certain medications, like aspirin, can weaken enamel.
Sensitivity and discomfort can also occur if your teeth are damaged, decaying, broken, or if fillings in your teeth fail. Finally, behavior, like grinding your teeth or brushing too aggressively with a hard-bristle toothbrush, can wear down enamel.
How to Talk to Your Dentist
If you suspect you have sensitive teeth due to enamel erosion, it’s important to see your dentist. Describe the pain or discomfort you feel in detail: when it started, the location of the discomfort, the type of pain or sensation, what triggers it and what, if anything, you do to alleviate it.
Your dentist will examine your mouth, teeth, and gums to determine the cause of your sensitive teeth. Once you have a diagnosis, you can take steps to improve your teeth sensitivity.
What Can I Do About Sensitive Teeth?
There are a number of ways to improve sensitive teeth due to weakened enamel and exposed nerves, and many of them you can do at home.
- Cut back or eliminate high-acid beverages, like soda and fruit juice, from your diet.
- Brush gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush.
- Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- Wear a mouthguard at night if you grind your teeth.
If these methods don’t work your dentist may recommend other measures such as fixing decaying or broken teeth, repairing fillings, fluoridated gel treatments or gum grafts.
You don’t have to live with the pain and discomfort of sensitive teeth. If you’re currently experiencing symptoms of sensitive teeth, contact a dentist right away. You may be only a quick visit away from enjoying all the foods you love again.