Is a sensitivity to hot and cold making it hard to enjoy favorite foods?
"You can notice tooth sensitivity while eating hot or cold foods, drinking cold or hot beverages, or breathing cold air," says Craig Valentine, DMD, a spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry.
What's Behind Teeth Sensitivity
Each tooth is made up of dentin, a tissue at its core, which is covered by a protective coating of enamel. If the enamel wears away or decays and exposes the dentin, the tooth (or teeth) can experience sensations including pain.
Gum recession caused by brushing too hard or with an incorrect technique can lead to dentin exposure, as can having cracked or chipped teeth or grinding and clenching the teeth. A medical condition, like bulimia or acid reflux, can also be a cause. Even diet may play a role - acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons and beverages like sports and energy drinks can dissolve enamel.
Preventing Enamel Loss and Teeth Sensitivity
"Damage to enamel is irreversible," says Dr. Valentine. "Once enamel is worn away, there is no way to ‘grow' it back." The trick is preventing or stopping the damage.
First and foremost, Valentine recommends good oral hygiene:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing the teeth too hard. Employ a proper technique, including holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and moving it in a circular motion. Consider investing in an electric toothbrush, most of which use a circular cleaning pattern.
- Reduce or eliminate acidic foods and beverages from your diet. When that's not possible, rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking these items and then wait at least a half-hour before brushing your teeth.
- Be on the alert for clenching and grinding. Valentine says that both can cause tooth sensitivity. "This is best treated by wearing a mouth guard while sleeping and avoiding clenching or chewing gum during the day," he says.
- Don't forget to see a dentist for cleanings and an examination every six months.
After Damage Is Done
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, one or more teeth will become sensitive. If your sensitivity is on the upper or lower cuspids (also known as the "canine teeth") or premolars, the likely cause is receding gums. Decay or enamel erosion can affect any tooth.
The first step is to see City Dental office who can develop an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on your situation, options include:
- Using special toothpaste. After being applied several times, certain kinds of toothpaste can help block the sensation of sensitivity from the nerve.
- Applying fluoride gel. Used in the dental office, fluoride gel can help make tooth enamel stronger and lessen the feeling of sensitivity.
Looking into serious dental treatments. When sensitivity is the result of decay
- or another tooth problem, a crown may help. If gum tissue receding from the tooth's root is the cause, a surgical gum graft may correct the problem. In severe cases, a root canal may be the best option to help treat teeth sensitivity.
When sensitive teeth are a problem and lifestyle changes aren't enough to ease the ouch, working closely with your City Dental dentist will lead you to the best solution.