Tooth sensitivity (also called dentin sensitivity) refers to the pain you feel when a tooth is exposed to extreme temperatures, sweet or acidic foods and beverages, or breathing in cold air. The sharp sensations can be unsettling, but thankfully, there is help available for you. Read on to learn what causes tooth pain, the ways to prevent it and how it can be treated.
How Enamel Wear Leads to Tooth Pain
To gain an understanding of sensitivity, let’s first review the anatomy of the tooth. The outer layer, called the enamel, is comprised of the hardest material in the body. This is a necessary feature because this portion of the tooth has the job of protecting the more sensitive areas from being damaged.
Because there are no nerves in the enamel, it isn’t able to detect sensations of pain. However, if this layer becomes worn, the more sensitive dentin that lies beneath it, can be subject to sensitivity.
Gum Disease and Tooth Pain
Another possible contributor to tooth pain is gum disease, which is the result of bacteria accumulating over time, which can lead to the recession of the gums. As a result, the roots of the teeth can be left exposed to the foods and beverages you consume, along with being affected by the outside elements.
Unlike the rest of the tooth, the root is not covered by enamel. Instead, its protective layer consists of a material called cementum. If this portion of the tooth becomes worn, the dentin is left exposed, which can trigger pain sensations.
Common Causes of Tooth Pain
Here are some of the common reasons that a tooth can be compromised and more vulnerable to pain:
- Brushing your teeth too vigorously can lead to the premature wear of your enamel and leave your dentin exposed.
- A diet high in acidic foods or drinks like candy, pickles, sodas, fruit juices and other items, can compromise your teeth.
- Conditions such as acid reflux and bulimia (forcing oneself to vomit after binge eating) can leave the teeth coated in acid and cause sensitivity.
How Your Dentist Can Help
If you have experienced issues with tooth sensitivity, then you should bring it to your dentist’s attention so you can undergo a full oral examination. It may be recommended that you use a less-abrasive form of toothpaste, or one that is fortified with extra fluoride.
Some of the other options are for your dentist to apply a thin layer of fluoride to your teeth to protect them or provide you with a filling.
Preventing Future Sensitivity
Once your oral health is restored to normal, you want to take the necessary steps to prevent any future issues. Along with using a less-abrasive form of toothpaste, you should be sure to brush and floss your teeth at least two times a day. It’s also a good idea to limit your sugar intake to avoid the accelerated growth of bacteria.
Tooth sensitivity doesn’t have to be permanent. With the help of your dentist and by following some simple guidelines, the pain can be eliminated, and you can get on to living a normal life.
About the Author
Dr. James Greer earned his dental degree from the University of Texas at Houston. Throughout his career, he has remained dedicated to providing his patients with top-notch care, which is why he maintains professional membership in the Academy of General Dentistry and several other organizations. Dr. Greer treats tooth sensitivity at his private practice, and he can be reached for more information through his website.