Do you cringe before drinking a cold, refreshing beverage or before brushing a specific tooth or area in your mouth?
Maybe you’ve had to give up some of your favorite treats like ice cream or hot chocolate.
Living with tooth sensitivity can have a substantial, negative impact on your daily life.
What causes tooth sensitivity and is there any hope to live a normal life free of dental pain?
The Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
There are many causes of tooth sensitivity. The most common causes, however are infections and decay of the tooth.
Tooth decay (cavities) are the result of the combination of inadequate dental hygiene and poor, sugar-filled diets.
Sugars, acids and simple carbohydrates found in processed foods interact with natural bacteria in the mouth to produce an acid that eats away at the enamel of teeth. If improper or inconsistent dental care is practiced, the enamel destroying acid on the surface of the teeth can eat away more of the enamel which leads to “holes” in the teeth whereby the tooth pulp and nerves get exposed. This exposure of the nerves is what causes the sensitivity and pain.
Even with meticulous dental care, food particles can still get lodged between teeth. If the food particles are not removed, they will decay, leading to the production of the enamel-destroying acid.
Other causes of tooth sensitivity include:
- Broken teeth. Sometimes accidents happen and teeth may get broken. When a tooth gets broken, the same exposure of the tooth pulp and nerves occurs due to the absence of the protective tooth enamel.
- Worn tooth enamel. The enamel of your teeth may become worn from use (as is common in the elderly) or from overly harsh brushing. Yes, using too hard of a toothbrush, brushing your teeth too hard or putting too much force on the teeth while brushing can scrape away the tooth enamel, causing the teeth to become sensitive and vulnerable to decay.
- Eroded tooth enamel. The regular consumption of acidic foods and drinks can weaken and destroy the tooth enamel, which can lead to the teeth’s nerves to be exposed.
- Worn fillings. If you’ve gotten cavities in the past and have had fillings applied to patch up the holes in the teeth, you were likely told they won’t last forever. Over time fillings break down and need replacing. If you have fillings and your teeth have become sensitive, it is likely an indication that you need to schedule an appointment with your dentist to have the fillings re-done.
What Can I do to Avoid Sensitive Teeth?
All the common causes of tooth sensitivity stem from the weakening or complete destruction and removal of the protective tooth enamel. The best way to protect yourself against getting sensitive teeth or to keep the sensitivity from worsening, is to take measures to maintain and support the tooth enamel. Limiting the amount of processed foods, foods high in sugar content and acidic foods and drinks is a good place to start in protecting your tooth enamel.
Another, more important thing you can do is to practice proper, daily dental hygiene. It is recommended you use a sift-bristled toothbrush, and fluoride tooth paste for sensitive teeth. We encourage our patients to brush their teeth for 2 minutes twice a day and carefully floss in between their teeth at least once a day.
It is also important to complement your daily at-home dental hygiene with a professional teeth cleaning and dental exam at our dental office once every six months. During your dental cleaning, we’ll be able to clean those hard-to-reach places you may have neglected and we’ll be able to place and replace new and worn down fillings.
If it has been more than six months since your last dental check-up and cleaning, or if you have severe, painful tooth sensitivity, contact us at Grove City Dental today to schedule an appointment.