Sensitive teeth can be caused by several different things. To figure out the possible reason for your discomfort, your dentist may ask you a variety of questions to rule things out:
- Where are you feeling tooth sensitivity?
- Is your sensitivity in one tooth or widespread?
- How long have you experienced sensitivity?
- How often do you brush and floss?
- Do you chew ice?
- Have you recently whitened your teeth?
- When was your last dental visit?
- Have you experienced impact or trauma to your teeth or jaw?
Your teeth are essentially alive. The enamel on your teeth protects the living dentin underneath. The dentin contains tubules that lead to nerves deeper in the tooth. Cracked or damaged enamel can damage the dentin, which can expose those tubules and lead to irritated nerves that cause sensitivity to hot and cold.
Another common cause of tooth sensitivity is gum inflammation that causes the gum to pull away from teeth ad expose those nerve tubules under the dentin. This is why your dentist looks for “pockets” in your gums at every check up. Addressing gum inflammation before it causes permanent damage is critical and one of many reasons why we recommend regular dental check-ups.
Common Causes of Sensitivity
If your tooth sensitivity is associated with just one tooth, there might be damage or decay. This can happen in a number of ways:
- A cavity
- A cracked tooth (impact, chewing very hard foods etc)
- A broken or loose filling that is allowing bacteria into the interior of the tooth
- A tooth infection
- A damaged root
- Advanced decay
Stress can also indirectly contribute to tooth sensitivity. Stress increases cortisol levels and cortisol can cause bruxism (involuntary teeth grinding) which will often result in widespread dental sensitivity. Finding ways to reduce your stress levels can help prevent further damage to your teeth. Another option is wearing a dental guard when you sleep to prevent continued harm to your teeth.
Excess Consumption of Acidic Food & Drink
Though your tooth enamel is strong and comprised mainly of calcium phosphate, acids in your food and drinks can dissolve it over time. Citrus, coffee, wine, soda, tomatoes, very sour candy and anything high in processed sugars and starches can erode tooth enamel. Consuming acidic foods and drinks too often will likely eventually contribute to tooth sensitivity. Drinking water after you have these foods or drinks can help wash away the acids, instead of leaving them on your teeth. Of course, brushing afterward is very helpful, as well.
The roots of your teeth are not protected by enamel. Your gums provide protection for dentin around your teeth roots but if your gums have pulled away from your tooth, it will expose the dentin and cause tooth sensitivity.
Gums recede for a few different reasons and if gum recession is not addressed, it can cause sensitivity and pain, as well as eventual tooth loss. We strongly recommend regular check ups to insure your gums remain healthy and protect the roots of your teeth.
This is a common cause of tooth sensitivity as bleach must penetrate the enamel and may irritate the dentin and tubules. This type of sensitivity is usually temporary and will subside when you stop using the teeth whitening products. To avoid damage while using whitening products that bleach, avoid eating or drinking sugary beverages immediately afterward. Drink water to rinse the teeth after eating. Using a toothpaste made for sensitive teeth can also be helpful.
You have sinuses in your face, located right above your teeth. When you have a sinus infection, pressure building from fluids, bacteria and inflammation in your sinuses can cause sensitivity to the teeth below your sinuses. Your teeth may also be sensitive to sudden movements such as standing up or bending over. If you suspect you have a sinus infection, you need to see your doctor about treatment to clear it up. Tooth sensitivity should then subside if a sinus infection was the cause. If it does not, we recommend you make a dental appointment to help determine the cause of your sensitivity.
Relief for Your Sensitive Teeth
Dr. Patel and the team at A Caring Dentist of Tampa can help you find the cause of your sensitive teeth and bring you relief. Make an appointment at our Carrollwood or Wesley Chapel location today to start feeling better sooner!