If you cringe at the thought of eating something cold and prefer your water room temperature you’re not alone. Sensitive teeth are a common dental problem. Many people experience discomfort or pain when they consume cold or hot food or drinks – or even if they breathe in very cold air. Fortunately there are steps you can take to reduce teeth sensitivity. But first, it’s important to know what causes sensitive teeth.
Common Causes of Teeth Sensitivity
Receding gums that expose the roots of the teeth. The underlying layer of enamel (dentin) has tubules that lead to the tooth’s nerve center. When there is no longer a protective covering, the tubules allow heat, cold or other to stimulate the nerves, causing pain or discomfort. Gum disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis, can cause teeth sensitivity.
Brushing too hard (or with a hard toothbrush). When it comes to brushing, some people think more force is better, but that’s not the case. In fact, brushing too hard or with a rough toothbrush can cause damage to the tooth and erode the gums.
A cracked tooth or tooth decay. When bacteria builds up inside or around a tooth it can cause the enamel to erode away, making the tooth more sensitive. When a tooth is cracked it can be prone to bacteria.
Grinding teeth. Grinding regularly can wear down teeth, exposing the middle layer that leads to the nerves. Teeth grinding can happen during the night – when some people aren’t even aware they’re doing it.
Acidic foods and drinks . Over time, certain foods and drinks (and even some acidic mouthwashes) can erode tooth enamel.
Sensitivity caused by dental procedures. Some people experience sensitivity after dental procedures such as a root canal, extraction or even a filling. This type of sensitivity is typically temporary and goes away on its own.
So now you know you’re not alone, but that doesn’t make eating cold ice cream any more comfortable! But there are things you can do to ease the discomfort. Below are some steps you can take to reduce tooth sensitivity.
Ways to Reduce Teeth Sensitivity
- Use a soft bristle toothbrush
- Try a sensitive toothpaste
- Use a fluoride rinse
- Avoid highly acidic foods and drinks
- Practice good oral hygiene, including proper brushing/flossing and regular dental visits
If sensitivity continues, consult your dental professional. There are in-office treatment options such as fluoride gels, fillings or sealants that may help your situation. Or in the event of severely eroding gums a gum graft may be recommended.