What’s going on with my sensitive teeth?

Some people are blessed with the life of never having felt the sensation of “sensitive teeth” while for some, it may come and go and for others, sensitive teeth is something they are unfortunately familiar with on a regular basis.

Sensitive teeth can be caused by a multitude of reasons, some of which may be:

  • Tooth decay (cavities)
  • Rinsing with mouthwash throughout the entire day
  • Eating too many acid rich foods such as tomatoes, oranges, fruit juices etc.
  • Teeth whitening and/or some toothpastes with peroxide-based whitening in them
  • Receding gums that allow access to the sensitive nerve roots
  • Brushing too hard (pulling the gums back which allows access to nerve roots and breaking down enamel)
  • Routine dental work can sometimes also give temporary tooth sensitivity
  • Cracked teeth can allow bacteria to enter the tooth and cause inflammation and can allow the nerve-rich pulp become irritated by chewing rubs the cracked pieces together
  • grinding or clenching teeth in the long term can wear down your enamel and expose your teeth

Most importantly, it is always important to speak to your dentist about tooth sensitivity to discuss how to actively treat the issue.  Good oral care at home is always a great place to start, with brushing at least twice a day, brushing for a minimum of two minutes per time, flossing daily, and brushing back and forth using gentle pressure.  To get the full idea, watch this video from the American Dental Association:

The Breakdown:

tooth, goldstein dental, anatomy, root, nerve, dentin, enamel, gums, perio, health, dentist, dental

In the diagram above, we can see that the enamel is the first layer in protecting the tooth above the gum line, the top part is known as the ‘crown’ of the tooth.   Beneath the gum line, the thin layer that protects the tooth is known as the cementum, protecting the tooth root.  Under the cementum and enamel we find the dentin which is less dense than the layers above it and made of many small hollow tubes also known as microscopic tubules.  As one can imagine, once the enamel or cementum is worn away, these small hollow tubes are no longer protected and are vulnerable to outside factors such as hot, cold, sweet, and sticky foods and allow them to reach the nerve cells.  Dentin can also be exposed by the recession of gums and can result in hypersensitivity.

A variety of options can result in less sensitivity.  As previously mentioned, the first step should always be to speak with your dentist.  He may suggest one or a few of these options or suggest something else entirely:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste – this works by compounds in the toothpaste that block the transmission of the sensation from the tooth to the nerve and is normal to take a few applications before sensitivity begins to subside
  • Fluoride gel – an in-office technique used to strengthen the tooth enamel and also block the transmission of the sensation from the tooth to the nerve
  • Crowns, onlays or bonding – one of these methods may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity – read about our same day CEREC crown procedure here.
  • Root canal – if sensitivity continues to persist and/or worsen, it may be time for a root canal if no other treatment works and can be read about here.

For any questions regarding your sensitivity, give our office a call to have Dr. Goldstein get your teeth back in tip-top shape!


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