If you’re one of the 40 million Americans with sensitive teeth, you must be familiar with the painful zing that follows a hot drink, a bite of ice cream, or just a deep breath of cold air. These and other elements can cause a sudden discomfort if you have sensitive teeth, also called dentin hypersensitivity.
Each of your teeth has an important protected layer called enamel. If your enamel gets worn down, your teeth can become more sensitive over time. Your enamel is the visible, white part of the tooth and it protects the softer, inner layers of each tooth. Receding gums can also reveal sensitive parts of the tooth that aren’t protected by enamel.
If you’re living with sensitive teeth, it’s good to know what causes the pain and how to avoid it. You should also talk with your La Crosse dentist about how to treat sensitive teeth and prevent further damage to your enamel or gums.
Causes of Sensitivity
Underneath your enamel is a part of the tooth called the dentin. Dentin is soft tissue full of nerves, which can be sensitive and painful. Certain habits and behaviors are more likely to wear down your enamel or cause gum recession that increases tooth sensitivity. The top five causes of tooth sensitivity are:
- Brushing your teeth too aggressively and wearing down enamel and/or gums
- Long-term exposure to acidic food and drinks such as citrus, coffee, and soda
- Tooth decay or broken teeth that expose the dentin
- Broken or leaking fillings
- Grinding your teeth
If you’re serious about avoiding or treating tooth sensitivity, talk with your dentist about which of these behaviors might be causing your problem. It’s very important that you keep track of when your teeth hurt and where you feel the pain. Sometimes tooth sensitivity means there’s another problem such as infection or cavity that needs a different treatment than just thinning enamel.
Treating Sensitive Teeth
Depending on the exact cause of your tooth sensitivity, Neighborhood Smiles may recommend:
- brush more gently and/or buy a soft-bristle brush
- start wearing a night guard, or
- another procedure to fix the problem.
Two simple products that can go a long way in relieving sensitive teeth are:
- Sensitive toothpaste to use every time you brush your teeth at home. You can find a variety of toothpaste for sensitive teeth at the drugstore. This type of toothpaste decreases the sensitivity of the nerves in your dentin. Although you can never grow new enamel to replace what may be worn down, sensitive toothpaste will offer temporary relief for as long as you use it. Most people need to use sensitive toothpaste for 2-4 weeks before experiencing its complete benefits.
- Fluoride gel applied to each tooth by the dentist can strengthen what remaining enamel you have and protect sensitivity from increasing.
If you have questions about sensitive teeth or any other oral health matter, Dr. Spitzer and Dr. Salisbury are professional dentists in La Crosse currently accepting new patients. Make an appointment today at our office, Neighborhood Smiles. Your oral health makes a big difference in your overall health and quality of life. You are worth the investment!