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Getting to the Root of Your Sensitive Teeth

Mickey Leth, DMD

What are your sensitive teeth trying to tell you? If you experience slight or severe pain when you eat or drink something hot or cold, you are not alone. Tooth sensitivity is a common dental problem that affects approximately 1 in 3 people. Your sensitive teeth may be so severe that even walking outside in the cold air triggers tooth pain. It is always important to discuss any level of tooth sensitivity with your dentist. However, to understand how you can best treat a sensitive tooth, you must first determine its cause. Most tooth sensitivity occurs when the tooth’s enamel wears so thin that the dentin layer of the tooth is exposed. With the dentin layer exposed, there is easy access to nerve branches, thus causing sensitivity. Some common causes of tooth sensitivity include:

  • Brushing your teeth too hard. This can wear away the enamel layer
  • Poor oral hygiene. This may allow tartar to build up at the gum line
  • Long-term tooth wear
  • Untreated cavities
  • An old filling with a crack or leak
  • Receding gums that expose the tooth’s roots
  • Frequently eating acidic foods or drinking acidic liquid

Depending on what is causing your tooth sensitivity, you may be able to treat it effectively at home, either by limiting acidic beverages, using a soft bristled toothbrush, or even switching to toothpaste that helps reduce sensitivity. Sensodyne Repair & Protect is an example of a toothpaste that works by actually forming a protective layer on top of the exposed dentin layer so your tooth enamel can repair itself.

If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, it is highly recommended that you consult your dentist first. Oral health problems such as untreated cavities, a leaking filling or gum disease all need professional attention and treatment. Get to the root of your sensitive teeth right away so you can enjoy the cold weather and hot chocolate this season without pain!