Is the taste of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee sometimes a painful experience for you? Does brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally? If so, you may have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin, or the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel.
When the hard enamel is worn down or gums have receded, tiny tube surfaces are exposed. Pain can be caused by eating or drinking hot or cold food/beverages, touching your teeth or exposing them to cold air. Some toothpastes contain abrasive ingredients that may be too harsh for people who have sensitive teeth. Ingredients found in some whitening and tartar control toothpastes may increase tooth sensitivity. Use soft-bristled toothbrushes. Avoid brushing your teeth too hard, which can wear down the tooth’s surface and expose sensitive spots. Look at your toothbrush and if bristles are pointing in multiple directions, you may be brushing too
Sensitive teeth can be treated, but the type of treatment depends on what is causing the sensitivity. Possible causes include:
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Fractured teeth
- Worn fillings
- Gum disease
- Worn tooth enamel
- Exposed tooth root
Your dentist may recommend you use a soft-bristle toothbrush or desensitizing toothpaste. Desensitizing toothpaste contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications
before the sensitivity is reduced. Other options include having your dentist apply a protective coating or fluoride gel to strengthen tooth enamel. If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend a root canal to eliminate the problem.
Talk to your dentist
Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing sensitive-tooth pain. Ask your dentist any questions you have about your daily oral hygiene routine or concerns about tooth sensitivity.