Ask Dr. Stanfield: What causes tooth sensitivity and how is it treated?
Are you experiencing severe tooth sensitivity to cold or hot foods? That can be an uncomfortable feeling, and it may be the result of an underlying dental problem.
Some of the primary causes of tooth sensitivity include: tooth bleaching agents, toothpaste additives (not fluoride), gum recession, excessive plaque on teeth, overzealous brushing, cracked teeth, and acidic foods. Tooth grinding also can result in exposed dentin and contribute to tooth sensitivity.
You feel that uncomfortable sensation in your mouth when the underlying layer of one or more of your teeth—the dentin—has been exposed, usually because of receding gum tissue. Your tooth’s roots, which are not protected by hard enamel but by your gum tissue, are penetrated by microscopic channels called tubules. When these dentinal tubules are exposed, stimuli such as cold and sweets can penetrate to the pulp of the tooth, where the nerves are found, resulting in sensitivity.
Treatment for Tooth Sensitivity
Sensitivity can be treated in a number of ways. The most fundamental thing is to maintain good brushing and flossing habits. Ceasing use of any substance that is causing you tooth discomfort, combined with use of an anti-sensitivity toothpaste works well as a first step. If you do have a dental problem such as a cracked tooth or excessive plaque build-up, we can repair that damage in our offices. In addition, I recommend a custom mouth guard to protect the teeth from grinding if that’s the cause of your sensitivity. Severe cases may require use of a prescription anti-sensitivity agent.