Tooth Sensitivity: 1 in 8 Americans Have It

At least 1 in every 8 Americans have sensitive teeth, sometimes on a daily basis. Tooth sensitivity tends to happen more frequently to women and young people. There are many causes, some of which you will want to see a dentist for. However, you may simply need an easy at-home remedy for tooth sensitivity you feel. Here are some reasons why tooth sensitivity happens, how you can prevent it, and tips for treating it!

What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth decay–which you’ll know by the name of “cavities”–is often the most common cause of tooth sensitivity in our patients. This is because decay that affects various parts of your tooth may be coming in contact with the center of your tooth where nerves lie, causing you pain and sensitivity. 

When you eat, sugars in your food and drinks will mix with mouth bacteria, creating a sticky, acidic plaque. That plaque will eat away at the outer enamel of your teeth when proper brushing and flossing isn’t happening often enough. That can create cracks and holes in the teeth, where bacteria gets in and decays. When decay spreads throughout the tooth, you may get severe tooth sensitivity that signals an infection. If you have sudden or more severe toothaches that have come on and lasts for several days, come into our office to make sure it’s not a cavity. 

Changes in the Winter? 

Tooth sensitivity and toothaches may feel very similar, but they are different. If you zero in on your sudden symptoms, you can detect if you are feeling pain inside a tooth or right on the outside of one. It’s common to have sensitive teeth in the colder winter months. Often, there may be a tiny bit of your tooth root showing right along your gum line. 

You may not even visibly detect extra tooth root showing, but you will feel the sensitivity it brings. Breathing through your mouth may bring sharp, sensitive pains from cold air hitting your teeth. The tooth root is not covered by enamel like the rest of your teeth are, so it will react to changes in the temperature of the air as well as foods and drinks. Remedy that tooth sensitivity by using toothpaste made for sensitive teeth. 

Try to avoid foods and drinks that are at one temperature extreme or the other (such as hot chocolate). Keep your mouth closed while outside, especially in the winter, and try breathing more often through your nose instead of the mouth. If you participate in winter sports, try using a helmet or mask that covers both the nose and mouth if you have sensitive teeth. With frequent, uncomfortable sensitivity that persists, see your dentist for a dental exam or to have a thin plastic coating painted on your sensitive teeth. 

Other Common Causes

If tooth decay or gum recession isn’t the issue, consider: 

  • A tooth injury. Breaking or chipping a tooth should be visible. However, when you crack a tooth, you may not know it. It’s easy to crack a tooth by biting down on something hard. That tooth sensitivity may be a dull ache, or it may only happen when you’re chewing. If you suspect you did something to a tooth, come into the office for an evaluation. 
  • Bruxism and TMJ. Grinding your teeth at night is also known as “bruxism”. This is when the teeth move back and forth and gnash together up and down. Often, it’s involuntary and is happening when you sleep. This can create dental injuries, constant sore teeth, daily headaches, weakened teeth, visible dental erosion and tooth sensitivity. It can be remedied with the right mouthguards at night. 
  • Exposed tooth roots. Gums pull away from the teeth with age and food/drink consumption. You may simply have some of your tooth root showing along your gum line that is sensitive to heat and cold. 

Fixes for Tooth Sensitivity

No one wants tooth sensitivity, especially when it’s a daily problem. Here are some tips for treating sensitive teeth: 

  1. Desensitizing toothpaste. This is an easy remedy for mild tooth sensitivity. There are many brands on the market today (such as Sensodyne) that specifically help with desensitizing the teeth. Switch your toothpaste for one of these and see if it helps your mild sensitivity problems. 
  2. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. When you buy a toothbrush next, notice how the packages will say, “soft”, “medium”, and “hard” on them. This is how hard the bristles are. Hard bristles will be more abrasive to tooth enamel, which is why you want to switch to a “soft” toothbrush with sensitive teeth. 
  3. Avoid highly acidic foods. Or acidic foods in general if you have frequent tooth sensitivity. Citric fruits and drinks will irritate gums, erode tooth enamel, and cause tooth sensitivity to the acid. Carbonic acids found in soda and sparkling water will do the same. Acidic plaque created from sugar will decay the teeth. To have stronger, less sensitive teeth, limit your consumption of soda, sugars and anything acidic. 
  4. Use a fluoridated mouthwash daily. Mouthwash is an oral rinse that can kill decay-causing bacteria. Most contain fluoride, which is a mineral that helps barricade the teeth against acids. Use a fluoride mouthwash, gel, paste, or toothpaste and then wait 30 minutes before eating and drinking. 
  5. Avoid teeth grinding. If you know you’re doing this, ask us about our custom mouth-guards that can help you stop grinding or clenching your teeth. 
  6. Dental intervention. We have dental materials that we can paint onto your teeth–much like dental sealants–that will seal off exposed tooth roots that cause you tooth sensitivity. 

While it’s not life-threatening, chronic ache of sensitive teeth can put a serious damper on the quality of a person’s life. Call our office to know more tips to help curb your tooth sensitivity. For sensitivity that won’t go away, schedule an exam by calling Family & Cosmetic Dentistry of the Rockies today at (970) 223-8425!