As we go through our daily routines, we don’t always notice changes to our teeth until something goes wrong. Then, suddenly, you may feel a sharp pain in your tooth when you eat something hot or cold, or as you brush your teeth.
This pain is tooth sensitivity, which may be a good reason to have your dentist examine your teeth. Many things can cause your teeth to be sensitive all of a sudden, such as gum disease, cracked teeth, and teeth grinding, to name a few.
In some cases, your dentist may recommend emergency dental care if the sensitivity is due to a more serious issue. Not all sensitivity is cause for concern, but it’s best to consult your dentist to find out how you can treat your tooth sensitivity.
What Is Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the top layer of your teeth, called the enamel, begins to wear down, exposing the underlying dentin. Your dentin contains small tubes leading to nerve endings in your teeth. When the dentin is exposed to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks, the nerve endings are triggered, causing a sharp pain in your teeth.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Many reasons can be at the core of why your teeth hurt, but thankfully most of them are treatable by your dentist.
Brushing Too Hard
Don’t get us wrong; it’s good to brush your teeth twice daily. But brushing your teeth too hard can cause your enamel to wear down, exposing the dentin and causing sensitivity. Instead, you can use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently brush gently in circular motions.
Grinding Your Teeth
Grinding your teeth (bruxism) can cause the enamel to wear down to the dentin or lead to cracked teeth. It can be hard to notice when you’re grinding your teeth, especially if you do it while you sleep. Up to 20% of children and 16% of adults have reported sleep bruxism.
Talk to your dentist about getting a mouthguard to wear at night to protect your teeth from grinding.
Acidic Foods & Drinks
Consuming too many acidic foods and drinks, such as soda, citrus fruits, and wine, can erode the enamel on your teeth, causing sensitivity. If you notice sensitivity, try to limit your consumption of acidic foods and drinks, or rinse your mouth with water after consuming them.
Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue surrounding your teeth pulls back, potentially exposing the root of your teeth. This receding can cause sensitivity and make your teeth more vulnerable to decay. It can also be a symptom of gum disease.
When we eat food with sugars, they can mix with the bacteria already present in our mouth and form a mild acid. This acid eats away at the enamel, exposing the dentin below. Proper dental hygiene should be able to clean this away and keep your enamel healthy.
If this acid eats too much of the enamel, it can leave tiny holes on the tooth’s surface called cavities. Your dentist can notice these cavities during check-ups and fill them if they get too big.
Tooth Crack or Chip
We all should hope to notice if one of our teeth breaks, but that’s not always the case. They can happen quickly, such as after biting down on something hard, and hide in spots we can’t see. A deep tooth fracture can expose the dentin and cause sensitivity.
Recent Dental Work
If you have recently had dental work done, such as a filling or crown, you may experience sensitivity in the affected tooth. Though this should fade away within a few weeks, it can persist if there are complications. In a few cases, the filling may have been too high causing sensitivity and may require simple adjustments. If you notice the sensitivity isn’t disappearing after a dental procedure, contact your dentist.
What Can I Do to Stop Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity can fade on its own, especially if it’s from recent dental work, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes you may have to see a dentist. We’re here to examine your teeth and offer the treatments and methods we believe will address oral health and restore your smile.
There are things you can do to lower your chances of getting tooth sensitivity or to address already sensitive teeth. These steps can be taken alongside a regular practice of good oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay and gum disease.
Use a Desensitizing Toothpaste
Desensitizing toothpaste contains compounds that block the sensation of pain in your teeth. A few different brands offer toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and you may need to try several before you find the one for you.
Use a Fluoride Mouthwash
Fluoride mouthwash can help strengthen your enamel and reduce sensitivity. Use the mouthwash after brushing your teeth or as recommended by your dentist.
Avoid Acidic Foods & Drinks
Limit your consumption of acidic foods and drinks, or rinse your mouth with water after consuming them.
Use a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to reduce toothbrush abrasion. This may help you avoid stripping away your enamel and irritating your gums. When you brush, do so gently in circular motions and don’t scrub at your teeth.
Wear a Mouthguard
If you grind your teeth, your dentist may be able to suggest mouthguards you can wear at night to protect your teeth from further damage.
Consider Dental Treatments
Sometimes, your dentist may recommend dental treatments to address tooth sensitivity. For example, a dentist can cover exposed root surfaces and reduce sensitivity with dental bonding.
Treating Sensitivity Stress-Free
Sudden tooth sensitivity may be a surprise and a cause for concern, but it’s often treatable. Markham Dental Smiles is experienced in helping people find comfort in their oral health. If you’re experiencing sudden tooth sensitivity, schedule a dental exam to stop stressing and enjoy a healthy, pain-free smile.