Sensitive Teeth Causes and Treatments

Sensitive TeethAccording to the Academy of General Dentistry, at least 45 million adults in the U.S. suffer from sensitive teeth at some point in their lives.  Do ice cream or hot chocolate no longer appeal to you due to tooth pain you feel with extreme temperatures? Is brushing or flossing an uncomfortable experience for you? If so, your mouth might be trying to tell you something. Sensitive teeth is a symptom of problems with your oral health. Your Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies team can help you learn about the causes and treatments for sensitive teeth.



Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

Sensitive teeth can make simple actions like drinking cold water, taking in a breath of cold air, or brushing your teeth a painful task. So why do teeth behave this way? There are a few reasons why your teeth may be sensitive:

  • Dentin issues. Dentin is the part of the tooth that is beneath your enamel and cementum. It contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering (enamel), the tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to stimulate the nerves and cells inside the tooth, causing sensitivity. Gum recession, or the wearing down of your tooth enamel, can expose the tiny, microscopic tubes in your dentin. When the cells within these tubes are stimulated, you may experience symptoms of tooth sensitivity.
  • Cracks in your tooth enamel.  Cracks in the surface of your tooth’s enamel can be sensitive to extreme temperature changes that cause your teeth to expand and contract. Over time, microscopic cracks in your enamel can form, allowing hot or cold sensations to hit the nerves beneath the tooth enamel.
  • Exposed roots. If discomfort lasts only moments, sensitivity generally does not signal a serious problem. It may be caused by an exposed root surface resulting from gum recession and possibly toothbrush abrasion.

  • New filling. Dental work may result in tooth sensitivity due to inflammation of the pulp tissues inside a tooth. This should resolve in a few days.

  • Cavity, chipped tooth: This probably means the pulp is inflamed (sometimes dying) usually as a result of deep decay or physical trauma. Make an appointment as soon as you can.
  • Bleach from teeth whitening:  78 percent of people have tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, after undergoing external tooth bleaching that uses the traditional carbamide peroxide. Sensitivity of the teeth and gums is mainly temporary and stops after the bleaching treatment. Frequency and severity of tooth sensitivity can be affected by the techniques used, the quality of your bleaching product individual response to the bleaching materials and methods. Talk to a member of our Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies staff if you experience tooth sensitivity that lingers long after a teeth whitening treatment.
  • Sinus pressure from seasonal allergies: Pain felt in the sinus area of the face is often associated with the upper back teeth because they share the same nerves. The origin of this “referred” pain consequently may be difficult to determine. Sinus pain/sensitivity can feel like tooth pain.

What Can I Do For My Sensitive Teeth?

One of the first things you should do if you’re concerned about sensitive teeth is to call and make an appointment with Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies. Drs. Murri or Willey can identify or rule out any underlying causes of your tooth pain. Depending on the circumstances, the pain of sensitive teeth can be managed with a few simple steps:

  • Check your toothpaste. Some toothpastes contain abrasive ingredients that may be too harsh for people who have sensitive teeth. Ingredients found in some whitening toothpastes that lighten and/or remove certain stains from enamel and sodium pyrophosphate, the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpaste, may increase tooth sensitivity. Using tartar-control toothpaste will sometimes cause teeth to be sensitive as well.  Check your local store or talk to a member of our team about a desensitizing toothpastes for sensitive teeth. Sealants and other desensitizing and filling materials, including fluoride can also help reduce your sensitivities. We can talk about these options after an examination in our office.
  • Check your toothbrush.  The way that you are brushing your teeth, and the tools that you are using, could be contributing to your tooth sensitivities. Avoid using hard-bristled toothbrushes and brushing your teeth too forcefully. Both of these actions can wear down the tooth’s root surface and expose sensitive spots. If you are unsure if you are putting too much force on your teeth when brushing look at your toothbrush.  If your toothbrush bristles are flattened or pointing in multiple directions, you’re putting too much pressure on your teeth.
  • Decrease your acidic food intake. Limiting your intake of acid-containing foods and soft drinks throughout the day could help reduce your sensitivity.

When Should I Call My Dentist?

Some tooth sensitivities resolve on their own, but if a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days, and reacts to both hot and cold temperatures, have an evaluation from a dentist at Family and Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies so you can ensure you know the cause of your tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity symptoms can resemble symptoms of serious dental issues so it is important not to delay being seen.  Be sure to tell your dentist when the pain started and if there is anything that you have found that reduces or amplifies the pain.

If you are diagnosed with sensitive teeth, and it isn’t due to an infection, or exposed root/nerve, your dentist can prescribe a variety of treatment options, including both in-office treatments (applying a desensitizing agent or a protective coating to the teeth) and take-home products for personal use.

Schedule An Appointment Today

If you would like to know more about our comprehensive exams or any of our other services, or if you’d like to make an appointment, call Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-6101. If you need to reach us after regular business hours, you can also send a contact or appointment request online (below) at your convenience.