Tooth sensitivity is common. It affects some 40 million people in the United States. Sensitivity occurs when nerves in the inner pulp of your teeth are irritated. Worn tooth enamel or receding gums can cause sensitivity—particularly when hot or cold foods or drinks touch your teeth.
Receding gums and damaged tooth enamel can cause sensitivity. Aggressive tooth brushing, hormonal changes, aging, cracked or decaying teeth, periodontal (gum) disease, and certain medical conditions can cause gum recession. Excessive consumption of acidic foods and drinks, as well as acid reflex and regular regurgitation of food associated with eating disorders can damage tooth enamel.
Treatment for sensitive teeth
- At home care – Desensitizing toothpaste, such as Sensodyne®, contains ingredients that block sensation from traveling from the surface of the tooth to the nerve. You will need to use the toothpaste several times before you begin to feel relief. Avoid hard-bristle toothbrushes and aggressive brushing. Some whitening toothpastes and tartar-control toothpaste cause sensitivity. Some patients find when they stop using these toothpastes, their sensitivity is reduced.
- Fluoride treatments or filling cavities – Your dentist may suggest fluoride treatment or other desensitizing agents to provide relief. Cavities may need to be filled with dental composite, or porcelain inlays or onlays. The cause of sensitivity will be identified before treatment is recommended.
- Gum grafting – If your gums have receded, tissue grafting may be recommended. Tissue from the roof of your mouth or donor tissue can be used to cover exposed tooth roots and reduce your symptoms.
- Periodontal treatment – When gum disease is the culprit, it needs professional attention from a dentist. Plaque around the teeth, and root surfaces will be smoothed. This process is referred to as scaling and root planing. You will be reminded of the importance of brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing daily. Flossing is critical in preventing plaque buildup on your teeth.
Don’t guess about the reason that your teeth are sensitive. Schedule an appointment with your dentist for an examination. Before the appointment, pay attention to the circumstances surrounding your periods of sensitivity. Your description will help the dentist provide correct diagnosis and treatment.
This post is sponsored by Lowell, MA dentist Dr. Michael Szarek.