Sensitive Tooth – Main causes of sensitive teeth

sensitive tooth

Do you have tooth sensitivity? Does it hurt to chew, drink hot or cold beverages, or to brush? About 1 in 8 people complain to their dentists about sensitive teeth. Adults between the ages of 18 and 44 are 3.5 times more likely to have sensitive teeth than older adults, and women are 1.8 times more likely to have a sensitive tooth than men.

Do you have sensitive teeth?

Cold foods like ice cream can make us more aware of tooth sensitivity. Sometimes a sensitive tooth is a minor inconvenience, and can be prevented by changes in diet. If it becomes annoying, there are steps you can take at home (for example, changing your toothpaste) that may help.

When your tooth sensitivity has come on suddenly, contact your dentist for an appointment. If problems are detected early, it may be possible to save a tooth. A dental implant or dental bridge can maintain correct tooth alignment, when a tooth must be replaced.

When it comes to your oral health, most things occur in different stages. For instance, what eventually becomes a severely aching tooth could start off as a tooth that just seems a little bit sensitive. In many cases, dental discomfort becomes severe because patients often ignore or choose to endure minor irritations. Most tooth sensitivities should be at least examined by a dentist. The only difference between slight sensitivity and severe discomfort is often time.

Why Teeth Become Sensitive

The main structure of your tooth, called dentin, is a little bit like bone in that its slightly porous, which allows sensory information to travel from the dentin to the tooth’s nerves. When healthy, however, a tooth’s dentin is protected by highly mineralized tooth enamel, which is so resilient that it prevents your tooth’s dentin from feeling anything.

One of the most common reasons for a tooth growing gradually more sensitive is the wearing down or weakening of tooth enamel. This can be caused by a developing cavity, unchecked bruxism, GERD. or a wide variety of other potential causes, and treating your condition will be the key to relieving your tooth’s sensitivity.

From Sensitivity to Toothaches

Because dental issues are progressive, they grow worse the longer they’re left untreated. That means the sensitivity in your tooth is going to grow more severe, as well, until it becomes a severe and unmistakable toothache. The more your tooth hurts, the more of your tooth is compromised, and the more extensive treatment you may need to fully restore it.

Where are the tooth nerves that hurt?

There are two sources of pain that comes from a tooth. Pain can come from the nervous network of dentinal tubules that grows up through the end of the root. It can also come from the ligaments that hold the tooth root in the socket.

The outer layer of each tooth is a hard shell of enamel, without nerve endings. Beneath this shell is the dentin layer, which is somewhat sensitive. At the heart of the tooth is the pulp, and this area does have nerve endings.

Reasons for Sensitive Teeth

There are several reasons you may be experiencing sensitive teeth including:

  • Gum Recession: A receding gum line is common as you age. Brush your teeth and gum tissue to keep them plaque free. Otherwise, you may deal with full blown gum disease.
  • Bruxing: If you grind or clench your teeth the pressure and the wearing away of enamel may result in dentine hypersensitivity.
  • Whitening toothpastes: Whitening toothpastes contain special chemicals that may cause tooth sensitivity -especially when you grind your teeth.
  • Cracked tooth: A damaged tooth is another reason for tooth sensitivity.
  • Decay: Tooth decay causes exposed dentin which can cause sensitivity.
  • Foods: Acidic foods such as lemons, pickles, and tomato sauce can cause pain if your nerves are already exposed.
  • Plaque: Excessive plaque buildup wears away your tooth enamel causing tooth sensitivity.
  • Mouthwash: Mouthwashes that contain alcohol can make your teeth sensitive.
  • Brushing: If you brush too vigorously you can wear down your tooth enamel resulting in sensitivity.
  • Dental procedure: Tooth sensitivity is common after dental procedures such as root canals or tooth extractions.
  • Nerve dying: The tooth could be dying and requiring a root canal

What About Toothpastes for Sensitive Teeth?

Some people have good results with specially formulated toothpastes, if they are used regularly. Chemicals in these toothpastes help reinforce thinned enamel. They can even fill in microscopic breaks. Since different toothpastes have different formulations. some have fluoride gels while others have compounds of potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. You may need to try several brands. Most take several weeks to provide a change, and must be used regularly to maintain the protections.

Restorative options for tooth pain

If desensitizing toothpastes do not give relief, or if the sensitivity has come on suddenly, an office visit is in order. Your dentist can look for an underlying cause of the sensitivity. Perhaps there is an early cavity that needs attention. Microscopic fractures from tooth grinding are a potential source of sensitivity.

You can also get help to fine tune your brushing habits, if over brushing is a problem. We don’t want sensitive teeth to keep you from enjoy cool treats this summer!

Find Out Why Your Tooth Is Sensitive

Even if the discomfort doesn’t seem severe, a sensitive tooth could become just as troublesome as a more intense toothache if you ignore the discomfort. To learn more, schedule a consultation by calling Lake Forest Dental Arts in Lake Forest, IL, at 847-234-0517. We also proudly serve the Chicago Metro area and all surrounding communities.