Teeth sensitivity is characterized by pain when one takes something that is extremely hot or cold. Just a spoonful of ice cream can have someone on the floor writhing in pain.
A sip of hot coffee can cause extreme pain in a sensitive tooth. How do teeth become sensitive?
Tooth decay, a cracked tooth, worn fillings, and gum recessions are some of the major causes of teeth sensitivity, according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Regardless of the cause, sensitive teeth have one thing in common. The enamel of the teeth is thinned out.
The enamel is the outer covering of teeth that is hard and covers the inner delicate parts of the tooth. The main importance of the enamel is to protect the tooth from harm.
It has no nerves and no blood supply and therefore it does not bleed and does not feel pain. With the enamel intact, the inner parts of the tooth are fully protected and tooth pain or sensitivity does not occur.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the enamel of your teeth is eroded so it thins out. When it thins out, the inner parts of the tooth, dentine and pulp, that have nerves and blood vessels are exposed.
When cold foods touch the nerves they cause pain and so do hot foods. Therefore, anything that causes thinning of the enamel causes teeth sensitivity.
Here are the top 7 common causes of sensitive teeth and how to stop it:
1. Teeth whitening
Whether done at a dentist’s clinic or using over the counter products, teeth whitening helps give people a better smile. The teeth are whiter and hence more aesthetically appealing.
However, this beauty comes at a cost. It may cause you to have sensitive teeth. The whitening effect on teeth is achieved using harsh chemicals that are tough on stains and they remove all of them.
The problem is that the stains are not all they remove. These chemicals also erode the enamel of the teeth. This is because most of these products are acidic and acids erode enamel very fast.
To avoid teeth sensitivity, keep teeth whitening at a minimum.
2. Brushing teeth too hard
It’s important that you brush your teeth thoroughly for good oral hygiene but brushing too hard can do more harm than good.
Brushing with too much force will remove your enamel and before you know it you will have sensitive teeth. Even using a toothbrush with hard bristles using the usual force can cause enamel erosion — which can lead to tooth sensitivity, according to Gene Romo, DDS, a Chicago-based Dentist.
You should brush gently using a toothbrush that has soft bristles to avoid teeth sensitivity.
3. Clenching and grinding of teeth
Whether you do this when angry and mad or when unconsciously as you sleep at night, it’s not a good habit. Actually, you need to stop now because it may cause you to have sensitive teeth.
Grinding and clenching of teeth cause friction on the enamel of the teeth as they move one over the other. Often times, teeth grinding increases as a result of stress, according to Bruxism
This friction erodes the teeth and leaves nerves exposed. As stated earlier exposed nerves is the root cause of teeth sensitivity. Avoid grinding teeth intentionally and use teeth guards at night if you tend to clench your teeth as you sleep.
4. Eating sugary and acidic foods
We all know that sugary foods are not good for our teeth but have you ever asked yourself why? Well, it is because the bacteria that naturally live in our mouths use sugar to make acid. This acid causes enamel erosion.
The same happens when one takes in a lot of acidic foods. You should limit the intake of acidic foods and drinks and maintain it at a minimum.
The acid in foods erodes the enamel a bit at a time and within no time you will be suffering from sensitive teeth. Acid also affects the gums and you may find yourself suffering from bleeding gums and teeth sensitivity at the same time.
5. Plaque Buildup
Plaque is a sticky substance that forms on teeth constantly and needs to be removed by brushing the teeth.
It’s very important not to let plaque buildup because this leads to damage of the teeth causing tooth decay, cavities, and bad breath.
When plaque builds up, it becomes tartar that cannot be removed using a toothbrush and flossing. This tartar accumulating on the gum line leads to bleeding gums and eventually causes gingivitis.
Plaque buildup causes the teeth to be sensitive by eroding the enamel as more and more of it builds up. To prevent teeth sensitivity caused by plaque buildup, you need to brush your teeth and floss often.
6. Cracked teeth
Many things can cause teeth to crack including physical damage and other causes. No matter what the cause is, a cracked tooth can be very sensitive and is usually painful.
Chipped or cracked teeth tend to become sensitive over time and the pain you feel will be exacerbated by cold or hot drinks/foods.
This is because the crack on the teeth exposes the nerve-rich dentin. The exposed dentin can be infected and become inflamed and as a result become very painful.
7. Gum disease
There are various kinds of gum diseases with the commonest being gingivitis and periodontal disease. These diseases affect the gums so they recede and reveal the inner parts of the tooth.
Note that the parts of the tooth below the crown do not have the enamel covering. They have cementum which is as tough but not as thick as the enamel.
Cementum gets eroded very easily. This means that the gums receding will expose the dentine and other inner parts of the teeth.
With these exposed, the teeth become sensitive and hurt. How do you avoid this? Always practice good oral hygiene and
How to stop teeth sensitivity
Now that you know the causes of teeth sensitivity the prudent thing to do is avoid them. But what if you already have sensitive teeth?
The pain you feel every time you take in that cold dessert or even let cold air into your mouth can affect the quality of life you lead.
You need a solution that works. The truth is that there are many solutions but some are more effective than others. How can you stop sensitive teeth? Here are some solutions you should try and they will surely relieve you of the pain.
a). Avoid cold and hot foods
The commonest triggers of pain in sensitive teeth are extreme changes in temperatures.
This usually comes in the form of hot or cold foods.
Though this method will not heal the tooth, it will relieve the pain.
Avoid taking foods directly from the fridge or directly from the stovetop. Allow some time to cool or warm up to room temperature before taking the food or drink.
b). Using painkillers
There are many painkillers out there and most will help with alleviating the pain associated with sensitive teeth.
Be sure to follow the prescribed dosage and even as you take these, talk to your dentist to prescribe a long-lasting solution.
c). Desensitizing products
These come in different shapes and sizes but they all have one thing in common; they desensitize the teeth.
They are mainly fluoride gels that strengthen the enamel and this, in turn, reduces the sensitization of the teeth. Some of these gels coat the exposed nerve endings so they are not exposed to the temperature changes.
This means reduced pain and as the enamel recovers over time teeth sensitivity can be a thing of the past.
There are many desensitizing products in the market; you may have to try a few before you find one that works for you.
i). Use Fluoride: Fluoride is a known enamel strengthener and this is the reason why it is added to many toothpaste brands. When you suffer from teeth sensitivity, it may help to use prescription fluoride.
This is available in creams that can be directly applied on sensitive teeth. The fluoride will strengthen the enamel and hence reduce sensitivity.
ii). Root canal: This is a dental procedure that involves the removal of the nerves and pulp in the root of a tooth. The area is then cleaned and sealed.
What this procedure achieves is that it removes the nerves that were feeling the pain completely. With nothing to detect the pain, it’ll be a thing of the past.
A root canal is a procedure that must be performed by a dentist near you.
It’s very effective but is usually treated as the last resort in the treatment of sensitive teeth. With this method, the sensitivity never returns on the specific tooth treated using the procedure.
Essentially, you might want to consider an advanced dental solution known as the Gum Graft. If your teeth sensitivity is due to gum disease, then this may be the solution you need.
Gum graft is a surgical procedure that involves taking gum tissue from one part of the mouth and placing it on the affected part. If your gums had recessed, the replacement will provide the teeth roots with the coverage they need.
With the dentine being covered, the nerves are not exposed and they will not feel much pain when exposed to extreme temperatures.