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According to research, one in eight Americans suffer from tooth sensitivity. That amounts to millions of people who struggle with daily discomfort and dietary restrictions. If you have sensitive teeth, the following tips may be able to give you relief.
- Change your toothbrush. Take a gentle approach to brushing by switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush.
- Avoid known catalysts. Limit cold and hot beverages, acidic foods and beverages, tobacco products and sour candy.
- Try an over-the-counter option. Certain OTC toothpastes and mouthwashes contain compounds that actually block transmission of sensation from your teeth to the underlying nerves.
- Seek fluoride treatments: Ask your dentist whether you could benefit from a professional fluoride treatment that can reduce sensitivity by strengthening tooth enamel.
Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?
Tooth sensitivity occurs when dental enamel wears away and exposes underlying dentin. According to the American Dental Association, this is usually in response to:
- Rough brushing: If you brush too hard, you can wear away enamel and increase the chances of tooth sensitivity.
- Coffee, tea and sodas: Acidic beverages can wear down tooth enamel over time.
- Poor brushing habits: If you don’t brush and floss, you can develop painful cavities and gum recession.
- Tooth fractures: Tiny cracks in your teeth can cause your teeth to feel sensitive.
- Whitening treatments: Abrasive whitening treatments can wear down tooth enamel in certain instances.
- Bruxism: If you clench, grind or gnash your teeth during sleep, you are more likely to experience tooth sensitivity.
Sometimes tooth sensitivity also occurs due to diseases of the gums, alveolar bone, periodontal ligament or cementum. This is why it’s so important to seek a professional evaluation anytime you experience prolonged tooth sensitivity. With timely intervention, your dentist can treat minor underlying issues before they evolve into serious issues requiring expensive treatments.
When to See a Dentist
Anytime you experience tooth sensitivity, you should visit your dentist for an examination. That said, if you experience severe or prolonged sensitivity, you should visit your dentist right away to check for potentially serious underlying causes, such as gum disease or tooth decay.
When tooth sensitivity doesn’t respond to conservative treatments, your dentist may recommend:
- Mouthguards to help patients who develop tooth sensitivity from nocturnal clenching or grinding.
- Covering roots: In certain instances, dentists can cover the exposed root area with gum grafts or tooth-colored composite.
- Root canal therapy: Sometimes dentists need to remove soft pulp within a tooth to eliminate feelings of sensitivity.
In many circumstances, dentists will treat tooth sensitivity with special toothpaste that reduces discomfort. For some patients, however, more aggressive strategies are required. If you suffer from tooth sensitivity, schedule an exam to uncover the cause and get treatment.