Have you ever felt some sensitivity in your teeth?
Like a cold zing, or some pain that just comes out of nowhere? Maybe you purposefully avoid hot or cold drinks just to avoid the sharp pain that often follows.
Sensitive teeth is very common to things like:
- Cold (foods, liquids or air)
- Pressure (biting)
- Acidic Foods
What ever is triggering the discomfort, sensitive teeth (aka dentin hypersensitivity) can be EXTREMELY irritating. If you are looking for relief from your overly sensitive teeth, it is much easier to find a solution once we can identify the cause.
Teeth Only Feel Pain
The first thing you should know is that teeth don’t actually feel cold, or hot, or any sensation at all, other than pain. The nerves in your teeth are there to let you know there is a problem, and they only know how to tell you that in one way. That’s tooth PAIN.
When patients come in, and are complaining of sensitive teeth, they don’t know what is going on, but they feel something is wrong…
and generally speaking…
If your teeth are sensitive it’s definitely something we want to check out.
Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity:
There are a number of reasons your teeth might be overly sensitive. Here are a few of the most common causes:
1. Trauma to the Tooth
If you’ve recently taken a blow to your teeth, you might experience sensitivity for a few weeks. We often see patients in the clinic that are complaining of sensitive teeth after taking a ball (or an elbow) to the face during a game of basketball. It’s a normal reaction, and something we call a tooth concussion. Teeth typically return to normal after a few weeks of healing.
2. A Crack in the Tooth or Filling
A cracked tooth or filling and be extremely sensitive to everything including hot, cold, sweet, acidic, etc. The crack in the outer enamel can expose dentin, which is the more sensitive layer of the tooth beneath the hard enamel. If the crack is deep enough, it can even lead to exposed tooth roots. Needless to say, if the root is exposed in any way, sharp pain responses to cold, hot, sweet or acid is almost sure to follow.
At Maxwell Dental we pride ourselves on thoroughly checking for cracks in teeth & fillings, so we can repair and prevent any future complications.
3. Tooth Decay
This is the big one. Tooth decay (aka Cavities) is a major culprit for causing tooth sensitivity. Bacteria is eating holes in the tooth and causing the nerve to get very excited. Depending on the extent of the decay, the hole can be exposing very sensitive parts of the tooth to the elements that register as pain. Checking for tooth decay is obviously part of your regular checkups, and is important to do at least twice a year. If left unchecked, decay in the tooth can lead to greater complications than just sensitive teeth.
4. Tooth Alignment
Another reason people can be having sensitivity is if their bite is off. So if you have slightly crooked teeth, or your jaw is is not quite in the right position, it can create improper pressure or wearing of the teeth that can lead to sensitivity. Similarly, if you frequently clinch your teeth, or grind your teeth, that can wear down the out enamel and cause stress to your teeth. Over time, those hard forces on your teeth can cause them to get very sensitive.
Consult with Dr. Greff to see if there are any solutions to help correct your bite, or help prevent clinching & grinding of teeth.
Many people might have sensitive teeth just because of the stage of life they are in. It’s not uncommon for us to get kids in the clinic with new permanent teeth (especially the front teeth) that they find very sensitive. That is completely normal at that stage. When new permanent teeth come in, the nerve inside is very large, making it very easy to irritate. The good news is that that subsides on its own over time as the nerve naturally begins to shrink.
6. Gum Disease
For patients that are over 40, the sensitivity in your teeth could be because your gums are showing signs of wear by pulling away from your teeth and uncovering your tooth roots. The roots that were under the gum line don’t have enamel to protect them. That makes them much more sensitive than the rest of the tooth. At Maxwell Dental, we do a thorough check for gum recession as it can be a sign of other problems, like gum disease. If gum disease appears to be the cause of recession and sensitive teeth, we can help implement a plan to get you back on track.
7. Excessive Bleaching
It’s very common for people to experience sensitive teeth after bleaching them for an extended period. If you have been bleaching your teeth, and are now experiencing sensitive teeth, talk to Dr. Greff about how the treatment may be affecting you before continuing. The good news is that sensitivity from bleaching is usually temporary.
What To Do If You Have Sensitive Teeth
Now that you know some of the most common causes of sensitive teeth, is there anything you can do to reduce the sensitivity?
The obvious first step is to book an appointment with Dr. Greff as soon as possible, so we can asses what is causing your sensitive teeth. But in the meantime, here are some things that will help:
Salt Water Rinse
Salt water is a natural way to reduce mouth pain and swelling. Rinsing with salt water will help remove any debris near the tooth and can help clean out bacteria.
Clove oil is a well-known and effective remedy for tooth pain. An essential oil, clove oil contains a natural anesthetic, known as Eugenol. Add a little of the oil on a cotton ball or Q-tip and apply it to the affected tooth to temporarily relieve the pain and discomfort. It won’t fix what is causing the pain, but can act as temporary relief until you are able to see Dr. Greff.
Hydrogen Peroxide, like salt water rinse, is commonly used to clean infected areas in the mouth. Hydrogen peroxide is much more effective than just a salt water rinse, as it kills bacteria, rather than simply washing it away. For an even more effective solution to treat bacterial infection, ask us about Ozone Therapy treatment.
Ways to prevent tooth sensitivity
As Benjamin Franklin would say, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. The very best way to treat tooth sensitivity is to help prevent it in the first place.
- Maintain good oral health
- Take care of your tooth enamel
- Brush & floss regularly
- Avoid acidic foods & drinks
- Use a protective mouth guard for high impact sports
- See your dentist regularly
- Take a break from bleaching