What Causes Tooth Sensitivity and How Can I Treat It?

Does the thought of eating your favorite ice cream make you wince? If you find yourself steering away from hot, cold, or even acidic foods because they cause discomfort, you likely have sensitive teeth, and your trusted team at Dental Care of North Carolina is here to help. We will determine the cause of your tooth sensitivity and will work to alleviate your discomfort. We are here to support your oral health every step of the way!

What Are the Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is often characterized by pain or discomfort as a response to specific triggers. These may include exposure to hot or cold temperatures, cold air, sweet or acidic foods or beverages, brushing or flossing your teeth, or using alcohol-based mouth rinses. A tooth is considered sensitive when the discomfort is immediate but subsides soon after removing the trigger. The symptoms may range from mild to intense and may come and go over time for no apparent reason.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Some people naturally have sensitive teeth due to having thin enamel. Tooth sensitivity typically occurs when the porous tissue under the tooth enamel called the dentin becomes exposed. Inside the dentin are microscopic channels called tubules, which are the pathways to the nerves. When these tubules are exposed due to tooth decay, broken teeth, chipped teeth, worn teeth, damaged restorations, or gum recession, the nerves become easily triggered by stimuli.

Some practices exacerbate tooth sensitivity. These include brushing your teeth vigorously, using a hard-bristled toothbrush, grinding your teeth at night, or regularly consuming acidic foods and beverages.

Some medical conditions can lead to tooth sensitivity. For example, Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can cause acid to come up from the stomach to the mouth and may wear teeth down over time. Conditions that cause frequent vomiting, including bulimia, can also wear down your tooth enamel, leaving you with sensitive teeth.

Diagnosing Tooth Sensitivity

If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, make an appointment with Dental Care of North Carolina. We will evaluate the health of your teeth and check for potential problems like cavities, loose fillings, tooth wear, or recessed gums that could be the cause of your tooth sensitivity.

Treating Tooth Sensitivity

Proper Oral Hygiene Practices: One of the best ways to prevent or manage tooth sensitivity is to maintain proper oral hygiene routines. Brushing at least twice a day and flossing every day will keep your teeth and gums clean and will lower your risk of developing cavities or gum disease. You can find toothpaste specifically made for sensitive teeth to help desensitize your teeth and help alleviate any discomfort. Make sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush and brush gently to reduce any irritation by vigorous brushing. A mouthwash to consider is a new technology from Listerine called Listerine Sensitivity mouth rinse with zero alcohol.

Restorative Dentistry Treatments: Any damage to your teeth, including cracks, chips, or cavities, will need restorative dentistry treatments, including fillings or crowns. If amalgam (silver) fillings are causing tooth sensitivity, replacing your restorations with composite resin fillings may provide the needed relief.

Fluoride Treatment: If cavities are causing your tooth sensitivity, in-office fluoride treatment can help. Fluoride strengthens your tooth enamel and reduces your discomfort. We may recommend the use of prescription fluoride for treatment at home, which you can apply to your teeth using a custom tray. 

Desensitizing or Bonding: At times, exposed root surfaces can cause sensitivity. Applying bonding resin to your sensitive root surfaces will protect your teeth and prevent further damage, and will also help alleviate your discomfort.

Surgical Gum Graft: If you have gum tissue loss, a gum graft can help. The procedure involves extracting a small amount of gum tissue from elsewhere in your mouth and attaching it to the affected site. A gum graft can help protect exposed roots and reduce tooth sensitivity.

Custom Mouthguard: If you grind or clench your teeth, a condition known as bruxism, we can fit you with a custom mouthguard to wear during sleep to prevent the grinding from wearing down your teeth, which can cause tooth sensitivity.

Root Canal Therapy: If your sensitive teeth cause severe discomfort and other treatments don’t help, we may recommend root canal therapy. The procedure involves the removal of the tooth pulp and placing a dental crown to protect your treated tooth. Root canal therapy is considered the most effective treatment for eliminating tooth sensitivity.

Treating Medical Conditions: If underlying health conditions are the cause of your tooth sensitivity, you will need to address them before they cause the enamel to wear down and damage your teeth. For example, you can manage the symptoms of GERD with acid reducers, and you can seek help for bulimia under the care of your healthcare provider.

Preventing Tooth Sensitivity

To prevent tooth sensitivity from recurring, make sure to maintain proper oral hygiene habits. When brushing, use gentle strokes and avoid the use of abrasive toothpaste. Limit your consumption of acidic foods and beverages, such as sodas, citrus fruits, and wine, all of which can erode your tooth enamel over time. 

We encourage you to keep up with your routine dental exams and cleanings. Identifying and treating any conditions early on will help prevent enamel erosion, which, in turn, will prevent tooth sensitivity. At Dental Care of North Carolina, we believe in prevention rather than addressing dental problems after they develop.

Quality Dental Care in Morrisville and Greensboro

Visit Dental Care of North Carolina to learn more about the management of tooth sensitivity. Our team of highly trained and experienced dental professionals will work with you to alleviate your discomfort. You can always count on us for exceptional, gentle care. Call us and schedule your appointment today!