Approximately one in eight people suffer from over-sensitive teeth, according to a new survey of U.S. dental offices. Tooth sensitivity is a common dental complaint that involves pain or discomfort in teeth when exposed to certain temperatures or substances. A sip of hot coffee or a lick of an ice cream cone is often enough to send a sharp sensation through the affected tooth. While mild tooth sensitivity is normal after having dental work or a whitening treatment, tooth sensitivity that does not subside after a few days may indicate an underlying problem.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity & Tooth Pain?
1. Brushing Too Hard
Aggressive brushing habits, such as brushing the teeth and gums too hard or brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush, can cause enamel wear over time. When the hard, outer surface layer of the tooth becomes worn, the dentin layer is often exposed. The dentin layer surrounds the tooth nerve and contains numerous pores that run from the tooth’s interior to its surface. Due to the direct connection with the nerve and blood supply, dentin exposure can cause pain and discomfort when exposed to external stimuli.
Too much of a good thing can be damaging to your teeth. Remember that vigorous brushing isn’t necessary to remove food and plaque. Changing your brushing habits can usually prevent the problem from getting worse. When severe toothbrush abrasion occurs, dentists can fill in the grooves with a bonding material to prevent dentin exposure.
2. Gum Recession Causes Sensitivity
Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue recedes due to inflammation or wear over time. As the gums recede, the tooth’s roots become exposed which can cause sensitivity and pain. The recession of the gum tissue also puts the tooth roots at risk for decay, infection, and other similar problems. One of the most common causes of gingival recession is gum disease caused by poor dental hygiene.
Mild gum recession may be treated by deep dental teeth cleaning which involves tooth scaling and root planing. Antibiotics may also be prescribed to kill any harmful bacteria that may remain. Gum surgery may be required to repair damage caused by gum recession due to excess bone loss or pockets that are too deep.
3. Acidic or Surgery Foods
Your diet plays a direct role in the health of your teeth and gums. Frequently consuming acidic or surgery foods and beverages can strip tooth enamel causing sensitive tooth pain. Foods and beverages like citrus fruits, pickles, tomatoes, sour candies, and carbonated soft drinks are some of the worst culprits. While the occasional acidic or sugary snack is fine, they should not be consumed on a regular basis.
Maintain a balanced diet and avoid highly acidic or sugary foods to protect your teeth. If you do eat acidic or surgery foods, try to eat them during meals. Your mouth makes more saliva during meals which can help reduce the damaging effects of acid production. In addition, be sure to drink plenty of fluoridated water and brush your teeth twice a day.
4. Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, is the excessive grinding of teeth or clenching of the jaw. Grinding or clenching your teeth can wear down the enamel and expose the underlying dentin layer. This condition affects both children and adults although many kids stop grinding as they get older. Teeth grinding can cause an array of symptoms. Jaw pain, tooth pain, headaches, and other dental problems like sensitivity are most common.
Your dentist may recommend a custom mouth guard to protect your teeth while you sleep. If a sleeping disorder or stress is causing the grinding or clenching, speak with your doctor about a solution. Some people find avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help stop teeth grinding. A warm washcloth pressed against the cheeks at night can help relax the jaw muscles as well.