Tooth Sensitivity: What causes it, and what can I do about it?

Tooth sensitivity is also called dentin hypersensitivity.  This can affect visible areas of teeth and exposed root surfaces in the mouth. When the enamel – the outer covering on teeth – gets thin, or when gum recession occurs, this can cause a tooth to become sensitive to hot and cold, which may cause pain or odd sensations. The enamel and gums provide protection for the tooth and nerves within.  When those protections are weakened or removed, tooth sensitivity can result.

Tooth sensitivity can come and go.  Hot, cold, sweet or acidic foods can cause pain or an odd feeling.  Breathing in cold air can cause tooth pain or sensitivity, too. Tooth sensitivity doesn’t always mean there’s a larger dental problem involved, but if you experience pain, twinges or discomfort when you eat cold ice cream or enjoy a hot cup of coffee, it’s best to speak to your dentist or oral care provider to learn more.

What causes sensitive teeth? Worn or thin tooth enamel on the teeth can lead to tooth sensitivity. This can be caused by using an overly firm tooth brush or brushing your teeth too aggressively. Tooth erosion and enamel wear can also be caused by frequent consumption of highly acidic foods and beverages. Some health conditions such as acid reflux can cause unexpected tooth wear and sensitivity, as well.  And receding gums and gum disease contribute to sensitivity, too, as the teeth are less protected due to damaged gums. Other things can cause tooth sensitivity too, including illness, medications and teeth whitening products and procedures.

What can be done about sensitive teeth? Talk to your dentist about an oral health care routine that’s best for you. Make sure you are brushing and flossing correctly and not using overly harsh or extremely aggressive motions to clean your teeth, gums or mouth, as this can cause damage. Avoiding acidic foods and practicing proper hygiene can help alleviate tooth sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest fluoride gel, certain mouth washes, special toothpaste or a number of other treatments to help ease your tooth pain.

Remember, tooth sensitivity doesn’t always mean that you need extensive dental work like a filling or a root canal.  It is important to maintain a regular schedule of dental cleanings with your oral health care provider to ensure that you pearly whites stay as healthy as possible. Not only do routine visits help your dentist catch any concerns early on, those checkups give you the opportunity to ask questions about easily-handled concerns like proper brushing, tooth sensitivity and other issues.  Not all mouth discomfort leads to a bigger problem, but it’s important to visit your dentist often and ask questions as needed.

Today’s dentists have a variety of tools available to ensure that each visit to their office is as comfortable and anxiety free as possible.  Don’t let tooth sensitivity lead to dental anxiety or fear of the dentist.  Schedule a checkup with your oral health care provider today.  Your dentist is a source of excellent care and great information. Armed with some simple tips, tricks and routines, you’ll be smiling again in no time, and your tooth sensitivity will be a thing of the past.

To learn more about painless dental procedures, visit to find a Dental Vibe dentist near you.

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