Tooth sensitivity is characterized by a sharp painful sensation that occurs when the teeth are exposed to hot and cold drinks and/or food. Sensitive teeth are very common and usually not a cause for serious concern unless you have an undiagnosed oral health condition. Undiagnosed dental diseases often get worse and don’t tend to clear up without professional dental care. In some cases, sensitive teeth are just a symptom of a bigger issue such as the need for a root canal. In that case, the only way to get rid of the pain for good would be to get root canal treatment. Although, there are plenty of things that you can do to ease painful sensitive teeth.
What is causing my sensitive teeth?There are many reasons why you could be experiencing tooth sensitivity. The following are common causes of tooth sensitivity:
- Enamel erosion. When the hard outer covering of the tooth (tooth enamel) wears away, it leaves the tooth more vulnerable to pain.
- Pulp infection. If the inner nerve of the tooth, called “pulp” becomes infected, this will cause pain and require root canal treatment.
- Tooth fracture. If a tooth fractures, the inner root may become exposed which can cause severe pain as nerve endings are located within the root of the tooth.
- Tooth decay (cavities). Cavities may also leave the root of the tooth exposed to cause pain.
- Gum disease (periodontal disease). Gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving your nerve endings vulnerable.
How can I prevent tooth sensitivity?Since tooth sensitivity is usually a symptom of an untreated condition, prevention against these conditions will help you to avoid sensitive teeth altogether. The following steps can help to prevent conditions that cause tooth sensitivity:
- Avoid or stay protected during situations that pose the risk for dentofacial injuries (injuries to the teeth and the face). These situations (such as sporting events and other recreational activities) could cause a broken tooth.
- Read this article for tips on how to prevent enamel erosion—a common cause of tooth sensitivity.
- Limit sugar intake, brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to prevent cavities.
- If you are at risk for periodontal disease, make sure to visit your dentist at least every three months to get a cleaning and examination.
- Visit your dentist regularly (every six months for most patients) to prevent problems from occurring! Don’t wait until you’re in pain—it could be too late.
How is tooth sensitivity treated?By treating whatever is causing the sensitivity, you can effectively eliminate the pain you’re experiencing. In the short term, try these remedies for pain relief:
- Take an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Avoid super hot and super cold foods and drinks.
- Try brushing your teeth with Sensodyne toothpaste.
- Make an appointment to have the underlying cause treated as soon as possible!