Tooth Sensitivity: What causes it and what you can do

What is tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity can affect one or more teeth in the mouth. Typically, it is triggered by eating or drinking something hot, cold, sweet or sour. It can also be triggered by eating something cold immediately after eating something hot, or vice versa. People with tooth sensitivity will also feel a sharp pain that can extend all the way through the roots of the affected teeth. Tooth sensitivity has many causes.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is often caused by exposed dentin. Dentin is a soft layer that makes up the inner part of the root and leads directly to the nerve center. The gums typically cover the dentin, but if they are pushed back, the dentin is not protected, leaving the roots vulnerable to the elements. Other causes include: grinding of teeth, tooth decay, gingivitis, plaque buildup and damaged teeth. Some dental products, like whitening strips, can even cause sensitivity, as can brushing with hard bristles. Some tooth sensitivity is caused by diet. Acidic drinks such as tea, soda and coffee can be a culprit for tooth sensitivity. Because our teeth get so much use, age can also be a determining factor, so the older you are, the more likely you are to experience tooth sensitivity.

What can you do to treat tooth sensitivity?

The best way to treat sensitivity is by maintaining proper oral care. In addition to brushing and flossing regularly, dentists may encourage some people with sensitive teeth to rinse their mouth with a fluoride rinse after brushing. By maintaining proper oral care, you can avoid many of the factors that lead to tooth sensitivity--tooth decay, plaque buildup, and gingivitis to start. Dentists also encourage people with tooth sensitivity to avoid food and drinks that are high in acid. While it isn't realistic to eliminate these acidic beverages from your life, you can prevent damage by rinsing your mouth out directly after eating or drinking anything acidic. If grinding contributes to your sensitivity, you might also treat the sensitivity by wearing a mouth guard at night. This can also prevent other dental issues that stem from teeth grinding.

If you need help getting to the bottom of what's causing your tooth sensitivity and how to get some relief, schedule an appointment with an accredited dentist. Once a serious cause has been ruled out, there is a myriad of treatment options available.

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