Do you cringe when you drink a cold glass of water or eat a piece of ice cream? If so, you may be one of the millions of people who suffer from tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity is a very common problem that can range in severity from mild discomfort to extreme pain when eating or drinking anything hot, cold, or sweet. In this blog post, we will discuss what tooth sensitivity is and why it occurs. We will also explore the different factors that can contribute to sensitive teeth and provide tips for how to reduce or prevent tooth sensitivity.
What is Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is a sharp pain that occurs when your teeth are exposed to hot, cold, or sweet stimuli. The pain is caused by the stimulation of nerve endings in the tooth that are connected to the root. When the root is exposed (usually due to gum recession), the nerves are more likely to be stimulated and you may experience increased sensitivity.
To understand why tooth sensitivity happens, you’ll first need to know a little bit about tooth anatomy. Each tooth is made up of three main parts: the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp.
- The enamel is the hard outer layer that covers the crown (visible part) of the tooth. It is the strongest layer and is also the strongest substance in the human body.
- The dentin is a softer layer underneath the enamel that makes up most of the tooth. The dentin is a yellowish color and contains thousands of microscopic canals that lead to the inside of the tooth.
- The pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth and contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the dentin is exposed. The dentin contains small canals (dentin tubules) that lead to the pulp. These tubules allow hot, cold, or sweet stimuli to reach the nerves in the pulp, which results in pain. The dentin can become exposed when the enamel is worn down, if there is a crack in the tooth, or when the gum tissue recedes.
The roots of your teeth are covered in a thin layer of cementum, which is a hard tissue that is softer than enamel. Additionally, the tooth roots are normally covered by a layer of gum tissue called the gingiva. The gingiva helps to protect the roots and keep them healthy. When the gingiva recedes (moves away from the tooth), the root becomes exposed. This can lead to increased sensitivity because the root does not have a protective layer of enamel like the rest of the tooth.
Things That Can Cause Tooth Sensitivity
There are many different factors that can contribute to tooth sensitivity. Here are some of the most common:
Brushing Too Hard:
Brushing your teeth too hard can damage the enamel and make your teeth more sensitive. Using a toothbrush that has hard bristles can also damage your enamel. Because of this, it is important to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and to brush gently. There are also special toothpastes you can use that are designed to reduce sensitivity. These toothpastes contain ingredients that block the pain signals from the nerve endings in your teeth.
Bruxism is a condition where you grind or clench your teeth. Oftentimes, this behavior happens at night while you are sleeping, which makes it hard to diagnose in some people. Bruxism can prematurely wear down the enamel and it can even lead to chipped or cracked teeth. In short, bruxism makes your teeth more sensitive. If you think you may be grinding your teeth, talk to your dentist about getting a mouth guard. In some cases, your dentist may also notice wear patterns on your teeth that could indicate you are a bruxer.
Acidic Foods and Beverages:
Eating or drinking acidic foods and beverages can damage the enamel. This is because the acid slowly eats away at the enamel on your teeth, which can make your teeth more sensitive. Try to limit your intake of acidic foods and drinks, and brush your teeth or rinse your mouth with water afterwards if possible.
As we mentioned before, gum recession can expose the roots of your teeth and make them more sensitive. The most common cause of gum recession is gum disease. However, gum recession can also be caused by genetics, brushing too hard, or bruxism. Be sure to brush with a soft toothbrush and floss daily to prevent gum recession due to disease or brushing too hard.
Tooth decay can damage the enamel and make your teeth more sensitive. This is because the bacteria that cause tooth decay excrete an acidic waste product on the enamel. Like the acids found in foods and beverages, these acids slowly eat away at the enamel. This forms cavities that can extend into the dentin layer or further. Be sure to brush and floss regularly to remove plaque and prevent tooth decay.
Old dental restorations, such as fillings or crowns, can become loose or damaged over time as they naturally start to wear down. When this happens, hot and cold stimuli may be able to enter the tooth and can cause your teeth to be more sensitive. If you have old dental restorations, be sure to see your dentist regularly to have them checked and replaced when needed.
GERD is a condition where stomach acid flows back up into the throat. This can damage the enamel on your teeth and make them more sensitive. Stomach acid is particularly damaging to your tooth enamel, so if you think you may have GERD, talk to your doctor about how to better manage your GERD.
In this blog post, we discussed the phenomenon of tooth sensitivity. We defined tooth sensitivity and explained why some teeth can be sensitive and others are not. We also listed and described several factors that can contribute to sensitive teeth: Brushing Too Hard, Bruxism, Acidic Foods and Beverages, Gum Recession, Tooth Decay, Tooth Damage, Old Restorations, and GERD. If you are experiencing sensitivity, talk to your dentist. These are just a few of the many things that can cause tooth sensitivity. If you are experiencing sensitivity, talk to your dentist. They can help to identify the cause and recommend treatment options. Thanks for reading!