We have met many patients who wonder why their teeth are sensitive. You know what we mean, that bite of ice cream or sip of hot coffee and you about shoot through the roof because of the shock. Sometimes a patient says it’s just one tooth, other times it may be every tooth! Do you ever wonder what causes tooth sensitivity? Today’s blog will cove some of the most common reasons that teeth are sensitive and review what can be done to remedy the issue.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
There are many reasons that teeth may be sensitive. Below are the most common causes and a basic understanding of the main mechanism that causes sensitivity.
- Tooth decay (cavities)
- Gum Recession
- Tooth wear
- Cracked Teeth
- Broken fillings/crowns
- Acidic diet/eating disorder
When our teeth become sensitive, the enamel that covers the underlying dentin layer of the teeth is removed or damaged somehow. Dentin is softer than enamel and has small tubes that run through it that communicate with the nerve of the tooth. When these areas are exposed, whether it be because of worn out enamel or a broken filling, the environment of the oral cavity can communicate with the nerve of the tooth giving us heightened response to stimulus we put in our mouth.
When a patient’s gum recedes, the tooth’s root surface is exposed to the mouth’s environment. The root is made of a material called cementum that covers the dentin. If root dentin is exposed, it can also communicate with the tooth’s nerve. The gums would normally cover the cementum and limit sensitivity, but once gums recede this protection is lost.
Fixing Sensitive Teeth
There are some solutions to the problem of sensitive teeth. Below we will list some common fixes.
- Sensitivity toothpaste: many toothpaste manufacturers offer toothpaste to address sensitive teeth. This solution is our go to if there is generalized sensitivity that cannot be localized. Compounds are present in this toothpaste formulation that will help block exposed tubules and prevent sensitivity. It often takes use over an extended period of time to see consistent results.
- Occlusal Guard: Protects teeth and prevents further wearing of the enamel and increased exposure of dentin from grinding and clenching at night.
- Root Canal: If tooth decay has reached the nerve of a tooth it could be causing sensitivity that is resulting in a severe toothache. In this case a root canal is recommended to remove the nerve tissue and infection from the tooth.
- Gum Grafting: Surgery to place new gum tissues in areas of recession. Often performed by a periodontist.
- Filling/Crown: If your tooth has a broken filling or is cracked, a new filling or crown can help remedy the problem and prevent sensitivity in the future.
- Changes in Diet: If consuming a heavily acidic diet some adjustments may be needed to help prevent erosion of the enamel and dentin.
Thank you for taking the time to read our blog. If you’re having any issues with sensitive teeth please give our office a call at 317-535-7141. Dr. Johnson or Dr. Long would be happy to help you remedy the problem and work towards alleviating the sensitive teeth.