Tooth sensitivity – better known as that jolt of pain you feel when drinking something hot, cold, or acidic – can seem like a minor problem. Recent studies find that 1 in 8 people suffer from it, making it remarkably common. But tooth sensitivity can be a serious issue and should always be looked at by your dentist, as it can be a sign of gum disease, tooth decay, or demineralization.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when dentin, the semi-hard layer beneath the enamel, becomes exposed. Though a protective layer in itself, dentin contains small openings that can allow cold, hot, or acidic foods to stimulate the nerves underneath. If you have tooth sensitivity, it may be on account of enamel loss caused by one of three primary conditions:
When your gums recede from the normal gum line, they leave the sensitive roots of your teeth exposed. While this can be due to gum disease, it can also be caused by overly-aggressive brushing and teeth grinding.
If you think that your gums might be pulling away from your teeth, try brushing more gently and with softer bristles. Remember to brush, not scrub, in careful circles near your gum line.
Make sure that you’re flossing daily and consider using an antiseptic mouthwash. Unless the cause of your gum recession has progressed too far, you should see healthier gums by simply showing more care in how you clean them.
If the condition doesn’t improve, your dentist might suggest a gum grafting to replace the missing gum tissue. For more severe cases, you may need special cleaning and treatment. If you notice that your gums are red, swollen, severely receding, or that your teeth are loose, let your dentist know right away.
Cavities and tooth decay can also lead to sensitive teeth. In these cases, crowns or fillings might be necessary to treat the sensitivity and reverse the damage done to your enamel.
Of course, brushing and flossing regularly can help prevent tooth decay and erosion in the future. If you’re worried about cavities, you can also try reducing the amount of corrosive foods and drinks –- like sodas, sugary snacks, and sticky candy – that you enjoy.
Demineralization is the erosion of your teeth’s enamel and one of the earliest signs of tooth decay. It’s a natural process within the mouth that your own saliva typically helps to balance out. However, when the mouth’s PH level becomes unbalanced, demineralization can outpace the saliva’s natural restorative processes.
Demineralization can lead to white spots on your teeth as well as cavities, and can require veneers, fillings, or other protective coatings to treat. To prevent demineralization, avoid food and drinks that contain a lot of acid, as well as treating and preventing cases of frequent heartburn. Your dentist may also prescribe special fluoride toothpastes to help replenish the minerals in your teeth.
In each case, if you have sensitive teeth, you should see your dentist about its possible causes and courses of treatment.
If you want a solution to your sensitive teeth, Dr. Mullins at My Family Dentistry will work to uncover its source and help you enjoy your favorite foods and drinks once again. Contact Us if you have any questions or concerns about teeth sensitivity, and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to find out about upcoming events!