Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common dental problems that dentists encounter in their daily practice. Sensitive teeth may hurt when you brush them or eat certain foods, particularly hot or cold ones. There are also various causes of sensitive teeth. The best way to find out what’s causing your teeth to be sensitive is to visit a local dentist, but these are some of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity.
- Worn tooth enamel
- Tooth decay
- Receding gums
- Chipped or broken teeth
- Aggressive brushing
- Whitening products
Worn Tooth Enamel
Sensitive teeth can come from worn enamel or exposed dentin. These are the two protective layers of your teeth.
Enamel covers your teeth and protects them from cavities by acting as a barrier between your tooth and anything you consume. Enamel is the hardest substance in your body, but it wears away over time due to tooth grinding, brushing too hard, or acidic drinks like soda and juice. Aging also plays a role in enamel wearing away.
If the enamel wears down enough, it exposes dentin, the second layer of protection for your teeth. It contains thousands of microscopic tubes that lead straight to your nerve endings in the deepest layer of a tooth, the pulp, where the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves are. This causes shooting pain sensations when you eat or drink hot or cold foods.
Tooth decay is an infection that results in cavities. It can eat away at the tooth, reach the nerve, and create an abscess. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in your mouth make acids that attack your teeth, destroying the hard outer enamel and the layer underneath called dentin. This often causes a cavity, but sometimes the acid leaves no visible signs on the tooth’s surface.
One common cause of sensitive teeth is receding gums, which exposes the roots where nerves are located. This often happens due to periodontal disease (gum disease), but it can also occur because you brush too hard or use a toothbrush with stiff bristles. Gum disease is treatable and preventable, so if you’re concerned about sensitivity and gum recession, talk to your dentist about treatments that can help.
Chipped or Broken Teeth
Chipped or broken teeth are a common cause of sensitivity. A chipped tooth may expose nerve endings in the inner layers of your tooth, making it more sensitive to hot and cold temperatures. Teeth with fillings can also become liable if the material is exposed from the filling becoming loose or falling out. You should speak with your dentist about a new filling if this happens.
If the chip in a tooth is minor, it may not cause any discomfort. But if it’s severe enough to feel it when you eat or drink, it will almost certainly cause sensitivity. If your chip is large enough to cover most of your tooth when you smile, talk to your dentist about replacing the missing material with one of these options:
Composite bonding – In this process, a plastic resin is applied to your tooth and hardened using ultraviolet light. The hybrid material bonds directly to your teeth and leaves them harder than before they were chipped because they have been reinforced with resin that strengthens them. This treatment lasts up to ten years and can be repaired relatively easily if damaged again during those ten years by simply adding more resin to the damaged area before hardening again using ultraviolet light.
Veneers – A porcelain veneer is like a false fingernail for your teeth. Your dentist will apply a thin layer of porcelain over the front surface of your chipped tooth so that when you smile, no one will notice there was ever anything wrong with it.
Dental crowns – This procedure requires two appointments for completion. If you opt for this procedure, your dentist will fit your tooth with a crown designed to cover and protect a broken or chipped tooth while still looking natural.
Brushing your teeth is essential to maintaining oral health, but if you use a hard-bristle toothbrush or put too much pressure on your teeth when you brush, you could be causing damage to the enamel. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush rather than a hard one, and lighten up on the pressure. Pressing too hard will only damage your tooth enamel and your gums.
Signs that you are brushing too hard include:
- Gingival recession (receding gums)
- Sensitive teeth after brushing
- Your toothbrush bristles are frayed after only a few weeks
If you choose to whiten your teeth with over-the-counter products like strips or trays, ensure they’re approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Whitening toothpaste also tends to have higher abrasiveness and may cause sensitivity. If you have sensitive teeth, talk with your dentist before using any whitening products–they can recommend the best option based on your dental health.
There are various causes of sensitive teeth. The best way to find out what’s causing your teeth to be sensitive is to visit a dentist. And, if you live in South Edmonton, we’d like to you call us here at Life Dentistry. We are located just off the Henday in southeast Edmonton and minutes away from Beaumont. At Life Dentistry, we prioritize your needs and aim to deliver excellent dental care in a comfortable and efficient manner.