Teeth sensitivity can range from mildly annoying to downright painful, and you’ve likely experienced it before. You might have bitten into an ice cream cone and felt a jolt run through your top teeth. Or perhaps you’ve been noticing some discomfort when you brush your teeth.
If your teeth aren’t comfortable, you’ll want to find out what’s causing the sensitivity as well as what you can do about it.
What Is Teeth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is pain in one or more teeth when exposed to a trigger. Often, the trigger is hot or cold foods or beverages, but it can also be sweet or acidic food, cold air, mouthwash, or toothbrushing. The pain can range from a quick, mildly unpleasant sensation to several minutes or more of intense pain.
The sensitivity can be transient and can happen over a day or two, or it can stick around and cause pain until you have the cause treated. It might be centered on one or two teeth or it might be your entire mouth that’s affected.
The important thing is to determine what’s causing your tooth discomfort and to take the steps to stop it in its tracks.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
The treatment for your sensitive teeth will often depend on the cause. Many factors can lead to mouth discomfort. Here are a few of the most common:
1. Gum Disease
If you have swollen, inflamed, or sore gums, they’ll often begin to recede, or move away from the root of the tooth. As this happens, the root becomes exposed. Since it doesn’t have protective enamel over it, you can experience hot and cold sensitivity, as well as pain when brushing or flossing.
2. Brushing Too Hard
While it’s important to brush your teeth after meals to prevent tartar buildup, it’s equally important to be gentle. Toothbrush abrasion can eventually wear away the enamel, or protective coating, causing sensitivity. The Cleveland Clinic also explains that it can cause gum recession.
3. Decay and Cracked Teeth
If you have an area of dental erosion or a chipped or cracked tooth, that leaves dentin exposed. In addition, bacteria now have a pipeline directly to the nerve of the tooth, which can cause inflammation or infection. This can lead to mild to severe pain.
4. Teeth Grinding
Some people clench or grind their teeth, especially in their sleep. This wears away at tooth enamel and exposes the dentin, which is sensitive to temperature changes. It can also lead to jaw pain and tenderness, which can be mistaken for tooth pain.
5. Bleaching Agents
Having your teeth bleached can lead to temporary sensitivity. Tooth-whitening procedures can include those done by your dentist as well as those you do yourself at home, such as with bleaching trays or even whitening toothpaste.
6. Dental Work
If you have a cavity filled, a crown placed, or even a deep cleaning, you might experience tooth sensitivity. This is usually temporary and will last a few weeks. If you have pain that doesn’t improve after a tooth restoration, it’s important to talk to your dentist.
When Are Teeth More Likely To Be More Sensitive?
There are some times and situations when teeth sensitivity is more likely to occur. These can include:
- During pregnancy. The hormones associated with pregnancy cause gum tissue to swell. This can cause sensitivity on its own, and it can also trap plaque, leading to additional irritation.
- Before a menstrual period. Some people who menstruate experience hormonal changes that can lead to gum swelling and sensitive teeth.
- When on oral contraceptives. Again, explains the Cleveland Clinic, someone taking birth control pills can raise hormones that can cause tooth sensitivity.
- Young adulthood. The Oral Health Foundation says that sensitive teeth are most common in adults between the age of 20 and 40.
- When someone has GERD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, often abbreviated as GERD, can cause acid to back up into the mouth during sleep. This acid can wear away at the enamel, causing tooth pain and sensitivity.
- During cold weather. When the air outside is cold, it can cause pain in people with sensitive teeth. Inhaling through the mouth often makes the problem worse, but using a scarf or inhaling through the nose protects the teeth from the cold air.
Of course, sensitive teeth can cause trouble at any time, particularly if it’s caused by recent dental work, dental decay, gum disease, or grinding of the teeth.
What Can I Do About Sensitive Teeth?
The best thing you can do about sensitive teeth is to see your dentist. They will be able to determine the problem and recommend a treatment based on the cause of your discomfort. Some ways tooth sensitivity can be treated include:
- Treating gum disease and restoring teeth with decay. Once these problems are under control, patients often feel better and have less sensitivity.
- Recommending toothpaste for sensitive teeth. One popular brand is Sensodyne, but there are others that your dentist might recommend.
- Treating underlying problems such as GERD that might be causing acid to back up into the mouth.
- Prescribing a night guard to help prevent clenching and grinding the teeth at night. If grinding is an issue, measures to reduce stress might also be helpful.
- Performing various dental procedures, such as a root canal if the issue is an inflamed nerve or an infection inside the tooth.
About Dr. Goodman, Beverly Hills’ Top Dentist
If you’re looking for a dentist to address your teeth sensitivity, Dr. Goodman is your best choice in the Beverly Hills area. He specializes in cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry, so he’s able to minimize or eliminate your pain while also making your smile look great.
Dr. Goodman has been featured on The Doctors TV show and has been voted “Best Dentist” and “Top Dentist” for several years running. Contact his office at (424) 344-4597 today to book your appointment.