What causes tooth sensitivity? | general dentist Woodbridge, Irvine, CA
What causes tooth sensitivity? – general dentist Woodbridge, Irvine, CA
Many people have experienced sensitivity in their teeth. This can take a variety of forms. The tooth may be sensitive to cold or heat (sometimes both), to sweets, or to pressure. What can make teeth become sensitive? Can it indicate a serious oral health problem? Is there a way to reduce tooth sensitivity?
Porous enamel leads to tooth sensitivity
Tooth enamel itself does not contain nerves. (This is why cavities generally don’t hurt in their early stages.) The layer below the enamel, which is called dentin, contains microscopic tubules that lead to the tooth’s inner space, known as the pulp. Contained within the pulp of a tooth are its nerve endings.
Normally, the enamel protects the tooth’s nerves from being stimulated by foods and beverages. If the enamel becomes thin or porous, or if it is cracked or damaged, then dentin will be exposed to conditions in the mouth (such as temperature and acidity). Because dentin contains tubules, these conditions may be transmitted into the tooth’s pulp, where they may stimulate the nerves. If the stimulation is intense enough, then the result is pain.
Causes of tooth sensitivity
There are a variety of different potential causes of tooth sensitivity. These include:
- Aging. The enamel of the teeth is gradually worn away throughout the course of life. The rate at which this happens varies between individuals, depending on their genetics and lifestyle factors. Many patients will notice some tooth sensitivity as they get older.
- Excessively vigorous toothbrushing. A toothbrush that is too stiff, or that is pressed into the teeth during brushing, may wear away the enamel more quickly and may also cause the gums to recede.
- Frequent consumption of acidic foods and beverages (such as lemon juice or coffee). Acids leach minerals from the teeth (a process known as demineralization), weakening the enamel.
- Frequent consumption of sugary foods and beverages. Certain types of harmful oral bacteria metabolize the sugar into acids, which then demineralize the enamel.
- Receding gums. The tooth roots are covered in less enamel than the upper parts of the teeth. When the gums recede, they expose the sensitive tooth roots, and the patient may notice tooth sensitivity. Receding gums have a variety of possible causes, including gum disease, aging, and vigorous toothbrushing.
- Damage to a tooth, such as cavity or a cracked tooth. An old filling that has become slightly dislodged may also lead to sensitivity, as hot or cold liquids may leak around the filling. When sensitivity is due to an oral health problem, there will usually be just one tooth that is sensitive (or possibly a few), rather than a more general sensitivity of all of the teeth.
Treatment for sensitive teeth
If you’re bothered by sensitivity of your teeth, then there are a few possible ways to treat this problem. First is to have an exam by your dentist, to ensure that there are no tooth problems that require treatment. If sensitivity is caused by a cavity or a cracked tooth, then treatment of this underlying issue will help. It’s important to visit your dentist early if you notice increased sensitivity or a toothache, because early treatment of dental problems can avoid serious complications.
Your dentist will talk with you about your lifestyle habits, to help determine which of them may be leading to sensitivity. It may help to change certain habits. For example, buying a softer toothbrush may help for some people. Others may benefit from reducing the acidity of their beverages, or drinking their favorite acidic beverages less frequently.
If sensitivity is still bothersome, then it may be beneficial to use a toothpaste designed to reduce tooth sensitivity. These toothpastes contain minerals (such as potassium nitrate) that block the tubules in dentin. This protects the nerves, so that they don’t transmit pain signals to the brain when encountering hot or cold temperatures or other sensitivity-inducing conditions. There are also mouth rinses that can help with sensitivity in a similar way.
Talk with your dentist about tooth sensitivity – general dentist Woodbridge, Irvine, CA
If your teeth are sensitive to heat, cold, sweets, acidic foods, or pressure, it’s important to let your dentist know. A highly-regarded dentist serving Westpark, Woodbridge, and other neighborhoods of Irvine, Dr. Levine can help you discover the cause of your tooth sensitivity and reduce your discomfort.
She’ll carefully examine your teeth for signs of an oral health problem that could be causing the sensitivity, and will treat this if present. If your sensitivity is caused by a lifestyle or genetic issue, she’ll offer recommendations that can help you protect your teeth and feel more comfortable. To schedule your appointment with Dr. Levine, please contact our office.