Did you avoid eating cold foods or drinking hot beverages? Was it due to your tooth sensitivity? If so, then it may be time to get to the bottom of this painful condition. Dentinal hypersensitivity, or tooth sensitivity, is a common dental problem. It’s a condition that can develop over time. So then, what causes tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is among the common causes of a toothache. The phrase “tooth sensitivity” refers to tooth discomfort or feelings of toothache in one or more teeth. The pain of tooth sensitivity is usually sharp, sudden and shooting.
Your teeth are made up of three layers:
- The outer layer, called the enamel, is the strongest.
- The core of the tooth is dentine, which is softer and contains millions of tiny holes.
- The deepest part of the tooth is called the pulp. This contains the nerves at the centre of the tooth.
The short, sharp twinge of tooth sensitivity pain is caused when the soft dentine inside your tooth becomes exposed. When this occurs, it reveals the tiny holes inside it. These holes are the openings to channels that run through your dentine. They lead straight to the centre of the tooth where the nerve is. When you eat or drink something cold, hot, sweet or sour, this stimulus can travel through the holes and stimulate the nerve. This causes the short and sharp sensation of tooth sensitivity pain.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
There are many causes of tooth sensitivity. Here are some common causes:
1. Whitening Treatments
Whitening your teeth might seem like a great way to spruce up your smile. But the harsh peroxide and whitening gels tear away at the enamel every time you use them. You might have noticed that people who whiten their teeth a lot have teeth that almost look translucent. This is a sign that their enamel is worn down. Reducing the amount of enamel you have exposes that layer of dentin. This is a surefire way to experience sensitivity symptoms.
2. Aggressive Brushing
Sometimes tooth sensitivity comes from brushing with too much force or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. Over time, you can wear down the protective layers of your teeth. This can expose the microscopic hollow tubes or canals that lead to your dental nerves. When these tubes are exposed to extreme temperatures or acidic or sticky foods, tooth sensitivity and also discomfort can result. The simplest solution is to switch to a toothbrush with softer bristles and also be gentle when brushing.
3. Tooth Infection
The soft pulp inside the tooth can become infected. This can be very painful, causing intense throbbing pain and also tooth sensitivity. Speak to your dentist immediately as the infection can spread.
4. Gum Disease
Receding gums are increasingly common with age (especially if you haven’t kept up with your dental health). This causes tooth sensitivity. If gum disease or gingivitis is the problem, your dentist will come up with a plan to treat the underlying disease. He may also suggest a procedure to seal your teeth.
5. Acidic Foods
Foods like oranges, lemons and grapefruit are incredibly acidic and can lead to enamel breakdown. However, most processed and sugary foods are also acidic in nature. Sugary candy, carb-laden bread and soda are all a feast for the germs living in your mouth. When you eat any of these foods, the bacteria in your mouth eat away at them. This also means the breakdown of your tooth enamel.
6. Tooth Grinding
You might well know that you grind your teeth, but some people are unaware of this awful habit. Tooth grinding, whether it’s done during the day because of stressful situations or at night while you’re unaware it’s happening, wears down not only the enamel on the biting surfaces of your teeth. It will also wear down the cusps of the tooth, which are those ridged points that give your teeth their unique shape.
7. Harsh Toothpastes and Mouthwashes
We all want gorgeous white teeth and oftentimes, you’ll pick up toothpaste and mouthwash that specifically says that it’s going to whiten your smile. Unfortunately, the harsh chemicals in these products wear away at the enamel. This also causes temporary tooth sensitivity while in use.
8. Dental Procedures
Whether you’ve gone for a filling, root canal or for a simple bi-annual cleaning, the procedure may leave your teeth feeling extra sensitive. The sensitivity that you get from these procedures is often temporary. Therefore giving it about a week will help to restore your smile to how it felt before visiting the dentist.
9. Cracks and Decay
There are times when the sensitivity you’re experiencing isn’t the enamel wearing down at all. The pain you have could be the result of a crack in the tooth, which is exposing either the dentin inside or the entire nerve, or you might have decay which needs to be drilled out and replaced with a filling.
10. Excessive Plaque
The purpose of flossing and brushing is to remove plaque that forms after you eat. An excessive buildup of plaque can cause tooth enamel to wear away. Again, your teeth can become more sensitive as they lose protection provided by the enamel. The solution is to practice good daily dental care. Also visit your dentist for cleanings every six months or more frequently if necessary.
11. Sugary Diet
Loading up on sugary treats such as cookies, candies, cake and ice cream can prompt bacteria to grow. The acids produced by the bacteria in plaque can breakdown tooth structure. Monitor your intake of candies and sweets to protect your teeth. Tooth decay can also cause tooth pain. Therefore consult your dentist to find out the cause of your sensitive teeth.
12. Tooth Decay
Sensitive teeth can be an early sign of a cavity. A cavity in a tooth is another way by which nerves in the centre of the tooth become exposed. You can use toothpastes which contain stannous fluoride. This helps protect sensitive teeth from cavities.
Only a dentist can confirm you have sensitive tooth. If you are experiencing any dental problems, always consult your dentist for advice. If you have tooth sensitivity, you can help to minimise further exposure of the dentine, care for your sensitive teeth and relieve the symptoms with natural home remedies. You can also make some simple changes to your daily oral care routine and dietary habits.