Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: you’re out on a date, and you figure “Hey, it’s nice, let’s stop for some ice cream”. You get your favourite flavour, you sink your teeth in and – YEOWCH! A sharp pain runs through your teeth.
Or the opposite scenario – you’ve just arisen from bed, brushed your teeth, and you’re sitting down for the first cup of coffee of the day. Bleary-eyed, you lift the mug to your lips to sip and – OWWWW!
Not the best way to start your day.
Sensitive teeth are incredibly common – fortunately, there are a number of ways we can reduce sensitivity and help you enjoy your favourite foods and beverages again.
Before we get to the cure, however, we’ve got to look at the cause!
What causes sensitive teeth?
There are a number of potential causes for sensitive teeth. Let’s start with the most common:
Enamel is the hard mineral layer that surrounds the rest of your teeth. Enamel is, in fact, almost entirely mineral – 96%!
There are no nerve endings in enamel – so when your enamel is completely intact, it’s rare to feel any tooth sensitivity. When the enamel wears away, however, you’re left with exposed dentin.
Dentin doesn’t have nerves, either, but it does have little tubules that lead to nerves. When your dentin is exposed, those tubules can cause the heat, cold, or acidity to reach the nerves, causing them to react – painfully!
Lots of things can wear away at your enamel, including:
- Brushing too hard
- Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
- Grinding your teeth
- Eating acidic foods
Cavities, cracks, and other crevices
Of course, sensations can take the shortcut to your nerves, even if your enamel isn’t worn.
When you have a large enough cavity, there’s a direct route for sensations to reach the nerves of your teeth. The same thing is true for any big cracks – and those can be caused by anything from too much pressure when grinding your teeth to sports accidents.
Grinding and clenching
These are two of the biggest causes of sensitive teeth – they can cause worn enamel and cracks. Together, grinding and clenching are a condition known as bruxism.
Most of the time, grinding and clenching take place at night. That means you could be grinding your teeth and not even know it – and that can lead to serious sensitivity.
Medications that cause dry mouth, aging, gum disease, brushing too hard – all of these things can cause your gums to recede.
When your gums recede, the root of your tooth can become exposed. The tubules in the root lead, of course, to the nerves – and once again, we have sensitive teeth.
Symptoms of sensitive teeth
This one is pretty obvious.
If you feel pain in your teeth when you:
- Eat hot foods
- Eat cold foods, or feel cold air in your mouth
- Eat acidic foods
- Use alcoholic mouthwash
…you probably have sensitive teeth.
Treating sensitive teeth
Treatment will depend on the cause of your sensitive teeth!
In the case of worn enamel, we can provide fluoride treatments to assist in remineralization. We’ll also help you figure out why your enamel became worn out in the first place, and help you adjust your routines to prevent it from happening again.
When you have a cavity, crack, or some other type of tooth damage, we’ll treat that damage. In some cases, we may need to perform a root canal treatment to remove infected pulp and prevent further sensitivity.
Receding gums are the trickiest. In the case of mild periodontal disease – gingivitis – a deep cleaning can assist with helping deep pockets of infection heal. In other cases, a gum graft may be necessary.
You don’t have to live with sensitive teeth – make eating fun again! And if your sensitive teeth are causing you too much pain, and you need an emergency dentist in Edmonton – call us right away. We’re open 24/7, and we have multiple locations to serve you.