Do you feel an almost painful chill in your teeth as you enjoy a lick of an ice cream cone? You’re not alone! Among one of the most common complaints from dental patients is tooth sensitivity. In fact, one out of eight adults suffer from sensitive teeth regularly.
There are a number of factors that can cause teeth to become sensitive. Read on to learn everything you need to know about sensitive teeth, including causes, prevention, and treatment!
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
In general, sensitivity across all or most teeth can stem from weakened enamel or from exposure of the roots of the teeth. Sensitivity originating from only one tooth can signal a crack, fracture or decay in the tooth.
Other causes of tooth sensitivity include:
- Dental procedures, like a filling or crown
- Broken, loose, or missing dental restorations.
- Receding gums or gum disease that exposes the roots.
- Brushing too hard or eating acidic foods can weaken enamel and cause sensitivity.
- Tooth grinding (bruxism) also wears down the surface of the teeth and enamel.
- Teeth whitening can cause sensitivity because the product also can affect the dentin of the teeth and can rub off on the gums.
If you notice tooth sensitivity, it’s a good idea to see your dentist soon so that they can determine the cause and help you resolve the issue.
Why are Teeth Sensitive All of a Sudden?
There are a variety of reasons that teeth can become sensitive “all of a sudden”, starting with whether the sensitivity is emanating from one tooth or several. When tooth sensitivity arises suddenly, the point of origin defines the cause and treatment for the sensation.
Professional and over-the-counter teeth whitening procedures are a big culprit of sensitive teeth because these products can temporarily cause teeth to feel sensitive. A broken or loose crown or filling can cause instant tooth sensitivity.
Sudden sensitivity can also result from stress, constant teeth clenching, or teeth grinding. Sinus pressure has been linked to sensitivity in the teeth. Furthermore acidic changes in diet, for example consuming more soda or coffee for a period of time, can affect tooth enamel.
Can Tooth Sensitivity Go Away?
Typically, tooth sensitivity doesn’t just disappear on its own. It usually requires proper treatment of the underlying cause. That said, some causes resolve on their own, like post-restoration sensitivity or when you have sensitivity after a braces adjustment.
Remember, sensitivity doesn’t have to be constant discomfort. It can be triggered by certain circumstances, like eating ice cream. If you have concerns about sensitive teeth, it’s best to discuss it with your dental team.
Teeth Sensitivity to Hot or Cold
Often teeth feel normal until eating or drinking something hot or cold, during which you may notice a chill, shooting sensation or sensitivity through the teeth. Sensitivity to temperature is common and can happen when the tooth enamel is thin enough to expose the underlying dentin. A loose crown or filling can also cause temperature sensitivity.
There are ways to manage temperature sensitivity, like using toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Application of sensitivity gel can also help. While these issues aren’t usually an immediate concern, you should discuss them with your dentist at your next appointment.
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How to Whiten Sensitive Teeth
Can you whiten sensitive teeth? Yes, but gently since many whitening products can cause temporary teeth sensitivity.
- Apply a desensitizing gel to alleviate some of the discomfort caused by sensitive teeth.
- Avoid foods and drinks with sugar, acid, or color while using whitening products.
- Always follow proper instructions while using any at-home whitening and be sure not to overuse or abuse products.
Of course, professional teeth whitening might be in your best interest. Your dentist knows your teeth and the best way to approach whitening to suit your oral health needs.
Sensitive Teeth and Braces
Many braces-wearers may feel sensitivity or discomfort after having braces tightened, however this sensation should resolve after a few days. Ongoing pain or sensitivity while wearing braces could be a sign that you aren’t cleaning your teeth properly.
Braces can cause thinning of enamel or gumline when you aren’t cleaning thoroughly enough around the brackets, and particularly around the back molars. Other signs that you may not be brushing well enough include bad breath, bleeding gums or unexplained tooth pain. If you experience sensitivity or other symptoms that don’t resolve within a few days of an adjustment, contact your orthodontist for an appointment.
How to Treat Sensitive Teeth
The only way to treat sensitive teeth is to determine the underlying cause. Your dentist can perform an examination and take x-rays to figure out what’s causing your sensitivity.
Sensitivity Due to Food, Drink, and Whitening Products
Experiencing sensitivity due to topical issues, like eating or drinking too many acidic foods and drinks, or use of whitening products is one of the easiest to remedy. Ease off of these activities to reduce sensitivity. There are a number of over-the-counter and prescription mouthwashes and toothpastes that alleviate the sensation of teeth whitening.
Sensitivity Due to Teeth Grinding
Treatment for clenching the jaw or grinding the teeth can vary. It typically depends on the individual’s daily behaviors and what triggers them to clench or grind.
- Drinking high levels of caffeine can cause grinding or clenching, so your dentist may advise cutting back on stimulants.
- Stress-management techniques such as breathing, therapy, yoga or meditation can help alleviate physical manifestations of stress (such as teeth grinding).
- Wearing a mouth guard overnight can help reduce impact and protect the surface of the teeth from grinding.
Sensitivity Due to Receding Gums
Treating symptoms receding gums or gum disease first requires treatment of any underlying infection. Typically, the dentist does a deep dental cleaning, which consists of root scaling and planning to remove the built up plaque and tartar from around the gum line. In severe cases of infection, the dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic.
Additionally, some cases might require gum grafting. Gum tissue does not grow back once it is lost, so gum grafting is a procedure that replaces what was lost.
When to See a Dentist for Sensitive Teeth
Dental sensitivity isn’t always an urgent situation, meaning it can wait until your six-month check-up. However, there are a few situations that warrant an immediate call to your dentist.
- If your teeth are noticeably more sensitive.
- If you feel a sharp or shooting tooth pain.
- If your sensitivity persists.
- You notice a cracked or decayed tooth.
- You have loose teeth.
- You notice your gums receding.
In many cases, the dentist can also prescribe a prescription mouthwash and special toothpaste that alleviate sensitivity. The dentist can also readjust or repair broken dental restorations that are causing tooth sensitivity.
As with any oral health condition, it’s important to not wait to see a professional. If you have concerns about sensitive teeth, Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics can help! Find the office nearest you and then book an appointment.