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Sensitive teeth can create problems for almost anyone. Cold drinks and ice cream or exposure to cold air may leave you wishing for a remedy. One of the most common complaints dentists and orthodontists hear about, tooth sensitivity affects as many as 40 million adults in the US, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. Luckily, your dental expert can suggest some possible remedies.
Sensitive Teeth and Tooth Anatomy
To understand the issues of tooth sensitivity, you need to know a little bit about your dental anatomy. Each tooth is composed of three layers: enamel, dentin and tooth pulp. Within the dentin are tiny tubes that convey fluid through the tooth. If the enamel becomes worn, these tiny tube surfaces become exposed, and the movement of the fluid causes nerve irritation. The tubes can also be exposed if the gums recede. A certain amount of gum recession is normal with age, but periodontal disease can make this condition much worse.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Quite a few things can increase your risk of tooth sensitivity. Some you can control or manage, while others may require the services of a dental expert such as a dentist, orthodontist, periodontist or oral surgeon. If your teeth are sensitive, consider these possibilities:
- High acid foods and beverages like vinegar, citrus juice or fruits can erode tooth enamel.
- Soft drinks, which contain both sugar and citric acid. The sugar promotes bacterial action and tooth decay, while the critic acid is hard on enamel.
- Acid reflux that causes stomach acid to come up into the mouth.
- Bulimia, a condition in which an individual deliberately induces vomiting to lose weight or maintain weight loss.
- Abrasive toothpastes or excessive brushing wear away enamel.
- Sodium pyrophosphate, an ingredient in whitening or stain-removing toothpaste, can make sensitivity worse.
- Tooth roots that are not covered by enamel. Receding gums allow the tissue at the base of the tooth, called cementum, to erode. This exposes the dentin over the root. By the time they are 65, most people have some degree of gum recession.
- Grinding your teeth can wear away enamel and result in tooth sensitivity.
- Excessive plaque can increase enamel wear.
- Some dental procedures, like a root canal, tooth extraction or crown placement, may increase tooth sensitivity for a period of time
Possible Solutions for a Sensitive Tooth
If you develop sensitivity, try some home strategies first. Change your diet to decrease high-acid fruits and drinks. Consider using a desensitizing toothpaste or stop using a tartar-control toothpaste. If you use mouthwash frequently, cut back to once a day. Check your toothbrush. If the bristles are pointing in all different directions, you are probably brushing too hard. You can also switch to a softer toothbrush. If you grind your teeth, it may be due to stress. Try stress-reduction strategies or an over the counter mouth guard. And of course, see your dentist or oral hygienist regularly for cleaning and preventive care.
When to See A Dental Expert
When you have been dealing with mild tooth sensitivity for a week or two, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your dentist. If the sensitivity is more severe and you react to both hot and cold foods and drinks, make that appointment within a few days at most. Be prepared to answer some questions about the problem. For example, are your teeth sensitive all the time or just when you eat or drink? If the problem worse at night or during the day? Have you noticed that anything helps the problem or makes it worse? If you’re not sure if you grind your teeth at night, ask your spouse or partner. If you have badly receding gums or gum disease, you may need surgery to correct the problem.
Your dentist can treat you in-office as well as recommend products you apply at home. The first step may be to apply a desensitizing agent to the teeth. In some cases, your dentist may recommend you massage the desensitizing agent into the gums. These products block the transmission of sensation from the teeth to the nerves and have lower abrasive qualities to help protect tooth enamel. A protective coating or sealant can cover the exposed tubes in the dentin. Fluoride varnishes and plastic resins are usually used in these products. Fluoride toothpaste, gels, and mouthwash can decrease sensitivity.
When It’s More Than Sensitivity
People react differently to problems with their teeth. What you consider mild sensitivity may put your sister over the edge. Nevertheless, there are some serious conditions that may begin subtly. It’s important to pay attention to your symptoms so you know if something’s changed. You don’t want to ignore a problem and wind up with something much more serious like an infection in the tooth root. If you have acute or throbbing pain, swollen or red gums or signs of infection such as drainage or a fever, it’s a dental emergency. See your dentist within 24 hours. Putting it off could mean you need more complex care, like a root canal, or could lose a tooth entirely
Contact us For a FREE Consultation
Your oral health is important to the health of the rest of your body. What you eat and drink, whether you smoke and even your exercise and sleep habits can make a difference. Make sure to see your dentist for regular preventive care. You don’t need to suffer from tooth sensitivity; solutions are readily available with Dr. King.
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