If you’ve ever felt a sharp, searing tooth pain when drinking a hot beverage or breathing in cold air, you’re not alone. The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that nearly 40 million Americans experience tooth sensitivity at one point or another. In this post, Dr. Wayne Sutton reveals some of the common causes of tooth sensitivity and what you can do to reduce symptoms when they arise.
Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
The primary cause of tooth sensitivity is the wear or loss of tooth enamel. Enamel is the hardest and outermost layer of the tooth. As it erodes, it reveals another layer called the dentin. The dentin contains tiny tubes that, when exposed to air, cause sensitivity and pain. Heat, cold, acid and other factors are able to penetrate and irritate the inner tissue of the tooth.
Enamel loss happens for the following reasons:
- Aggressive brushing
- Chronic tooth grinding/clenching
- A diet high in sugar or acid
- Eating disorders like bulimia, which expose the teeth to stomach acid
- Chronic acid reflux
- Frequent use of at-home whitening products
Gum recession can also expose the dentin, leading to sensitivity. The gums may recede due to aggressive brushing or gum disease.
Other causes of tooth sensitivity include cracked teeth, which are vulnerable to bacteria that can travel to the dentin and irritate the tooth, and dental work like fillings or crowns. Usually sensitivity due to dental work is temporary and resolves on its own.
Steps to Take to Reduce Sensitivity
The first thing you can do to reduce sensitivity is cut out all foods or beverages that are causing you pain (including those that are extremely sugary, acidic, sticky, hot or cold). You can also start using a special desensitizing toothpaste and avoid any tartar-control toothpastes known to cause sensitivity.
You may also want to tweak your brushing habits — brush in gentle, short strokes rather than aggressive scrubbing. Read our last post for more tips on proper brushing techniques.
When to See Dr. Sutton
If your tooth sensitivity is severe and persists for more than three to four days, you should schedule a visit to see Dr. Sutton. He can investigate the root cause of the problem more thoroughly and determine whether a bigger problem, like an abscess or cavity, is to blame for the sensitivity. Dr. Sutton may also recommend a regimen for reducing your symptoms; sometimes applying sealant or another protective covering can help.
Contact Sonoma Smiles
To contact our Rohnert Park dentist and request an appointment, please call (707) 585-2555 or email Sonoma Smiles today.
Share this article:
(All photos of actual patients)