If biting into an ice cream cone or drinking from a cup of hot coffee creates a painful experience, you may have sensitive teeth. Let’s take a closer look at this condition.
Teeth sensitivity is one of the main issues that dental patients report. Enjoying anything that is hot or cold can lead to extreme discomfort for some patients, while others have no issues with temperature but find smiling in the wind unbearable. Whatever the trigger, too many sufferers put off their hygiene appointments due to the fear of uncomfortable teeth cleanings.
In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin.
Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.
Communicate With Your Dental Team
If you are experiencing any sensitivity issues, the best thing you can do is let your dentist and hygienist know. Take note of where and when your sensitivity issues occur so you can describe the circumstances during your next dental visit. Your dental team can use the clues you provide to start the search for the cause, determine why it is happening and set the best course of treatment. Helping your teeth look and feel their very best is what Dr. Robert Harrell and his talented team at Adult Dentistry of Ballantyne do every day.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth can be caused by the following dental issues:
- Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush and using a hard grip while brushing aggressively.
- Tooth erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages.
- Tooth decay, worn leaky fillings and broken teeth that expose the dentin of your tooth.
- Gum recession that leaves your root surface exposed.
- Grinding your teeth at night.
- Post dental treatment sensitivity – common, but temporary, especially with procedures such as crowns, fillings and tooth bleaching.
Preliminary Dental Treatment
Having a conversation with your dentist is the first step in finding relief from your discomfort. Describe your symptoms, tell your dentist when the pain started and let him or her know if there’s anything that normally makes it feel better, such as warm compresses.
After your dentist determines the reason for your sensitivity, he or she will treat the underlying cause. Treatment may be as simple as fixing a cavity or replacing a worn filling. However, if your discomfort comes from gum loss exposing root surfaces, your dentist may suggest a gum graft that a periodontist would conduct to protect the root surface and support of the tooth. More details at Colgate
Unknown Night Grinders
Tooth grinding is another major cause of sensitivity. Many patients are shocked to find out that they grind their teeth because they only do it while sleeping. The tell-tale smooth grooves and flat, worn crowns typically lead to this surprising discovery during a regular dental check-up. If you are experiencing sudden sensitivity, sleep apnea, headaches or a sore jaw upon waking, it might be time to make a near-date dental appointment, even if your regular cleaning is just a few months away. The grinding at night can lead to exposed root surfaces that cause sensitive teeth. Wearing a custom mouth guard to sleep can help you protect your teeth.