If you’re aggravated by a sharp, intense pain in your teeth that catches you by surprise, this may be a sign of tooth sensitivity. This sensitivity occurs when your tooth enamel or soft covering of the root called cementum is lost or your gums have receded exposing the root of the tooth and the dentin. Causes of damage may include simply overbrushing with improper technique or a too hard brush, consuming acidic and sugary foods, and grinding teeth. Your dentist may refer to this pain as “dentin hypersensitivity”.
There are a few common reasons for tooth sensitivity and if you’re experiencing pain, it may be due to one of the following sensitive teeth causes.
From foods you consume, to how you brush your teeth, learn what may trigger tooth sensitivity so that you can stay ahead of it.
1. Aggressive Brushing
Brushing too hard may wear down your enamel and root cementum. If you find that you go through your brushes faster than your floss, you may need to adjust your technique to salvage your teeth. Not only does over-brushing teeth damage your enamel, it can also lead to gum recession which exposes softer parts of your tooth and can lead to pain and sensitivity.
2. Lacking Routine Oral Care
Brushing, flossing and rinsing twice daily are keys to maintaining a healthy mouth. Be vigilant and routine-oriented when cleaning your teeth, including brushing with a fluoride toothpaste, because you are also protecting and strengthening your body’s only supply of tooth enamel. When enamel is worn down it exposes your dentin, leading to exposure for tooth sensitivity.
3. Receding Gums
If you’re noticing that your gums are starting to pull away from your teeth, then it means your gums are receding. This exposes dentin tubules which lead to the sensitive nerve branches inside of your teeth. Receding gum lines do not solely occur as a result of brushing too hard; if you are experiencing gum recession, be sure to consult your dentist and obtain a proper diagnosis to make sure you do not have something more serious that should be treated by a professional.
4. Acidic Diet
If you frequently eat sharp-tasting or sour food and drinks this could be stripping away your tooth enamel. Balance your diet to monitor highly acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, grains, pickled products, and acidic beverages including orange juice, coffee, sports drinks, wine, and carbonated sodas.
5. Sugary Diet
Loading up on sugary treats like 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 cause tooth pain, so consult your dentist to find out the cause of your sensitive teeth
Vigorous brushing won’t make your teeth any cleaner, but it can increase your risk for tooth sensitivity. That’s because too-tough brushing can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, exposing the nerve and setting you up for tooth pain. Use a soft-bristled brush doing short strokes, brush your teeth twice a day in a gentle up-and-down motion — not from side-to-side. Almost think of it like massaging your teeth and gums versus a hard scrubbing. As long as you're doing it twice a day for two minutes, it will be effective.
Use a Desensitizing Toothpaste
Over-the-counter desensitizing toothpastes contain a compound that helps block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve, use it twice daily; you should notice less sensitivity within a few weeks. For very tender areas, try rubbing a bit of desensitizing toothpaste directly on the tooth, wait for five minutes, then brush your teeth as always.
Rinse With a Fluoride Mouthwash
The fluoride in over-the-counter fluoride mouthwashes can strengthen your teeth’s enamel layer, helping to [protect against] sensitivity. Fluoride also can protect against tooth decay and cavities, which can also cause sensitive teeth, just remember to rinse daily with the mouthwash after brushing your teeth.
Avoid Acidic Drinks
Highly acidic foods and drinks wear away your teeth’s enamel, leaving you susceptible to tooth sensitivity and tooth decay, they can also cause the gum line to recede, which exposes the nerves. Carbonated sodas, citrus fruit-based juices, and citrus fruits are all acidic. Instead of eating citrus fruits by themselves, try adding them to a meal: The other foods serve as a buffer, which helps lower the pH levels in your mouth. And be sure to wait at least 30 minutes after eating citrus fruits to brush your teeth. As the acid weakens tooth enamel, and brushing too soon may damage the enamel
Skip the Tooth Bleaching
Both at-home whitening kits and in-office teeth whitening procedures can cause some temporary sensitivity, so if you have sensitive teeth and want to brighten your pearly whites, be sure to let your dentist know about your condition. If you have sensitive teeth, they may not recommend whitening for you.
Bite Down on a Mouth Guard
If you grind your teeth — a condition called bruxism — you can wear down the enamel, which could trigger sensitivity, since people commonly grind their teeth at night, talk to us about being fitted for a mouth guard that you can wear while you sleep. Another suggestion: Because tooth grinding is often a sign of stress, you may also need to incorporate more de-stressing lifestyle changes into your day (think: exercising, meditation, and more)
Consider In-Office Treatments
If you have severely sensitive teeth, you might want to consider an in-office dental treatment. Gel fluoride treatments, crowns, inlays, or bonding can all help cover sensitive areas on your teeth. For severe cases, you can also have a gum graft (a procedure that removes a section of your gum from one area of your mouth and moves it to the area where your gums have receded) or, if the pain can’t be managed, a root canal to remove the nerve.
Visit Your Dentist
If your teeth are sensitive and nothing seems to be working, we recommend visiting us. If your teeth are bothered in cold weather, the question is what's causing it to be sensitive to the cold, don’t just try to cover it up." Sensitive teeth can be a warning sign of a more serious dental health problem such as a fractured tooth, worn fillings, an exposed root, or gum disease. Figure out what's causing it, and address it.
Hot or cold foods, as well as sugar rich and acidic diets are proven to cause discomfort for people with sensitive teeth. Foods to avoid if you suffer from sensitive teeth include ice cream, sodas, red wine, juices, candies, coffee, fruits, yogurts, and even pickled products.
Most people with dentin hypersensitivity struggle eating foods with extreme temperatures and ice cream is one of the top offenders. Not only does the cold temperature causes sufferers discomfort, because this delicious dessert contains high amounts of sugar that can be broken down by bacteria on the teeth and lead to decay, it can cause even more damage to sensitive teeth.
Hard candies, sour candies, gummies, and all other sweets alike may stimulate tooth sensitivity. Additionally, the higher amounts of sugar that almost all candies are made from make them some of the most detrimental foods you can eat when it comes to your teeth because of tooth decay. Rinse consistently and eat sparingly to protect sensitive teeth from the sweets!
Moderate consumption of beer or liquors may add to tooth decay, and can increase tooth sensitivity due to the alcoholic beverage’s high sugar content. Wine also may increase symptoms of tooth sensitivity due to its acidic content which is also a stimulus.
Even healthier beverage options such as juices and sports drinks still are made with plenty of sugars and acids. This doesn’t mean you can’t have orange juice with breakfast or a thirst-quenching sports beverage rich in electrolytes during exercise, but rather that you should practice proper, consistent oral care and be mindful of your overall dietary choices to protect your teeth from sugary and acidic foods.
Coffee is a crucial part of the daily routine for millions of people. Many have a cup or two at breakfast and keep themselves fueled with it throughout the day. Unfortunately, the temperature of coffee, its level of acidity, and often the tendency for people to drink it with added sugars make it a concern for individuals experiencing sensitive teeth.
What Is The Difference Between Tooth Sensitivity And Pain In Your Mouth?
Tooth sensitivity is usually a sharp, intermittent zinging pain in response to air, food, or drinks that are especially hot, cold, sweet, or sour. If you’re experiencing mouth pain that is more severe and consistent, you should consult a dentist to be certain what you are experiencing isn’t a more serious or chronic condition such as a cavity, gum disease or a cracked tooth.
What Is The Difference Between Sensitive Teeth And Sensitive Gums?
Sensitive teeth pain occurs when your enamel or softer root cementum is worn down or your gum line has receded to expose what is called dentin. Dentin contains cylindrical tubules that run from the center of the tooth (or the “pulp”) where the nerves are located. When the dentin surface is exposed, dentin fluid flows outward from the pulp. If this flow is disrupted by external stimuli (such as hot or cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks) a signal is sent to the nerves which is felt as pain.
As the gums pull back, the dentin tubules become exposed and your teeth have less protection from these substances and temperature sensations. While sensitive teeth may not necessarily have a differing appearance than healthier teeth, sensitive gums will turn red and will often bleed without being prodded, such as when brushing. Also unlike sensitive teeth, sensitive gums may not cause the same type of discomfort. The trouble is that the longer you ignore them, the worse this is for your teeth and oral health, so be sure to consult your dentist as soon as possible if you are experiencing sensitive gums.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
In a healthy mouth, there are tiny tubules in dentin (the soft part inside a tooth) that are covered by gums, cementum (a hard layer of tissue), or enamel. These dentin tubules lead to nerves and if enamel, cementum or gums start to wear away, tubules are open (exposed), so stimuli like temperature changes in the mouth from hot soup, cold ice cream, or even cold air, can move through them to the nerves. This causes the shooting pain known as tooth sensitivity.
Does whitening your teeth cause tooth sensitivity?
Tooth whitening can be achieved in two ways: the use of bleaching products and non-bleaching products and either may cause sensitivity. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t whiten your teeth, but that you should simply be aware of the effects of whitening treatments and use them alongside proper and routine oral care.