If you experience twinges of pain when brushing and flossing your teeth or when drinking a cold beverage, chance are you have tooth sensitivity. If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks or breathing in cold air makes your teeth sensitive or painful, then you probably have sensitive teeth. It usually indicates that your tooth dentin is losing its protective covering, and the nerves within the teeth are losing their buffer. Tooth sensitivity is fairly common, as one in eight people experience it.
You don’t have to just live with the pain however. The most important thing to do is to identify why your teeth have become sensitive. Once you have identified the problem, you can begin to address it to reduce your pain. Some of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity are:
- Brushing and Flossing Too Hard. If you are using a hard-bristled toothbrush, or just brushing with too much gusto, you could be damaging your gums, and creating sensitivity. And although flossing daily is recommended, you can over do it. Over time, these habits can wear down the protective layers of your teeth, and create lasting damage. Switch to a soft-bristled brush, and take it easy when brushing and flossing.
- Acidic Foods. If you have any tooth dentin exposed, acidic foods such as tomato sauce, citrus fruits, soft drinks, coffee, and pickles can cause pain when you eat them. Cut down on these types of foods to reduce your pain.
- Toothpastes and Mouthwashes. If you use a whitening toothpaste, you are brushing daily with whitening agents, which can cause tooth sensitivity. Many whitening agents are abrasive, and detrimental to the health of your teeth dentin. And many mouthwashes and rinses contain alcohol and other chemicals, which can irritate your mouth even further. Use a toothpaste without whitening agents, and choose a neutral flouride rinse instead of a harsh mouthwash. (Whitening your teeth professionally creates much more effective results, while protecting your teeth from damage).
- Preventable Wear and Tear. There are some habits and conditions that can do lasting damage to your teeth. Chewing ice can crack the enamel on your teeth, and grind it down over time, as can chewing on your fingernails. Or maybe you grind your teeth, often attributed to stress. This grinding, called bruxism, usually occurs when you’re asleep, so you might not even realize that you’re doing it. If you know (or suspect) that you are grinding in your sleep, talk to your dentist about being fitted for a mouthguard to wear at night to protect your teeth from damage.
- Tooth Decay and Plaque Buildup. Plaque buildup on can cause tooth enamel to wear away, contributing to sensitivity issues. Brushing and flossing regularly should help to reduce sensitivity. And even a small cavity can remove enough tooth enamel to expose dentin and cause sensitivity, but a filling or a crown should help.
- Gum Disease and Procedures. Gum disease can cause recession, which can increase sensitivity. In addition, dental procedures, such as prep work for a crown, a root canal, or a tooth extraction, can all cause sensitivity. If your symptoms don’t improve, or if you think you’ve got gum disease, schedule a visit right away.
- A Broken Tooth or Damaged Filling. A cracked or chipped tooth can cause pain that goes beyond sensitivity, and decay around an existing filling can become a real problem. Make sure and see your dentist if you have issues with any teeth or fillings.
Other things that can contribute to pain sensitivity are eating disorders, sinus infections, hormonal changes during pregnancy, and even a change from warm to cold weather. Regardless of what is causing you pain, it is important to get it checked out to make sure that you catch any potential problems before they do lasting damage. Call us today to set an appointment!