Do your teeth twinge every time you eat ice cream or sip hot coffee? If you answered yes you may have sensitive teeth. This type of discomfort restricts our freedom to enjoy our favourite foods and drinks.
Let’s dive deeper into sensitive teeth. This article will look into the cause of tooth sensitivity to hot and cold (for example, you get a toothache when drinking cold water or eating something very sweet). We will also take a look at some possible treatments.
Some things that can cause tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
Tooth Sensitivity is a condition where there is pain and tenderness in the teeth. The sensitivity occurs when the teeth over-respond to certain stimuli, for example, when consuming food or drinks that are too hot or cold.
Anyone can have issues with sensitive teeth. This issue is not limited to those negligent in taking care of their teeth. Pregnant women and the elderly often complain of having sensitive teeth too.
How common is this condition?
Sensitive teeth is a dental condition that can occur to anyone. Quoted by the Oral Health Foundation, this condition can begin to occur at any age but is more common among people aged 20 to 40 years. In addition, sensitive teeth can also occur in early adolescence.
The elderly, aged over 70 years, also often complain of this condition. Compared to men, women are more likely to experience sensitive teeth. You can prevent this problem by avoiding some existing risk factors.
Causes of sensitive teeth
Teeth have several layers. Sensitive teeth occur when the dentin (middle layer of the teeth) is exposed to external stimulation. The opening of the dentin occurs when the outermost layer of the tooth, called tooth enamel, is damaged. Dentin has canals that are connected to nerves within the teeth. Tooth sensitivity can occur if the dentin is exposed and gets external stimuli, such as exposure to hot or cold food or drinks. Several factors can cause exposed dentin:
Teeth enamel is the strongest tissue in the human body. However, this layer can also be thinned or damaged due to the consumption of sweet, sour or fizzy drinks.
Condition of teeth and mouth
Cavities or broken teeth can expose the dentin, causing sensitive teeth. Another condition in the mouth that can cause sensitive teeth is receding gums. Shrinkage of the gums can leave the roots of the teeth exposed and unprotected. In addition, gingivitis can also cause sensitive teeth.
Some medical procedures on teeth, such as fillings and teeth whitening, can also cause sensitive teeth. However, sensitive teeth that arise due to medical procedures are only temporary.
Sensitive Tooth Risk Factors
This condition can happen to anyone, and several factors can increase a person’s risk of developing sensitive teeth, namely:
- Female gender
- Frequent consumption of acidic, sugary and fizzy food and drinks
- Rarely do dental care and teeth cleaning
Bad habits that can cause sensitive teeth
Unknowingly, several bad habits can cause your teeth to become more sensitive than usual. Here are some of them:
Brushing your teeth too hard
Brushing your teeth too hard can cause many problems for your teeth. One of them triggers sensitive teeth. This bad habit can erode the outer layer of the tooth and cause the dentin to be exposed. On the other hand, it can also cause sagging gums (gum recession).
Bruxism, also known as grinding teeth, can also be a factor that triggers your teeth to hurt often. Teeth grinding is when you rub or clench your teeth frequently. This bad habit can damage the tooth enamel. If left untreated, the middle layer of your teeth can open and cause your teeth to be more sensitive.
Eating acidic foods
What you eat can affect your overall dental health. Foods that are too acidic can cause tooth pain. The reason is, acid can cause erosion of tooth enamel (enamel erosion). The erosion changes the appearance of your teeth, opening the door for bacteria that can cause cavities or infection.
Consuming cold or hot food
Foods and drinks that are too cold or hot can also cause this condition. Hot and cold foods make your teeth hurt because your tooth enamel has weakened, and the underlying structures of your teeth are exposed. If you like to chew ice cubes, you are more susceptible to sensitive teeth.
Certain types of mouthwashes that contain alcohol can trigger sensitivity in your teeth. If the dentin area has been exposed previously, the alcohol in the mouthwash can worsen your dental problems.
Sensitive Teeth Treatment
Patients who experience mild sensitive symptoms can perform self-care at home, such as:
- Using a special toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- Choosing a toothbrush with soft bristles
- Using an alcohol-free mouthwash
- Brushing your teeth slowly
Suppose the self-home treatments above do not relieve the sensitive teeth symptoms, we suggest getting suitable treatment from a dentist. The dentist will adjust treatment according to the sensitive-teeth symptoms they diagnose. Some possible treatments are:
Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the spread of pain sensations in your teeth. Your dentist may apply fluoride to sensitive areas of the tooth when you’re at their office. If needed, the dentist might prescribe professional fluoride treatments at home in the form of a highly concentrated rinse, gel, or varnish.
Thickening or bonding
The exposed root surface of the tooth can be treated by applying a bonding (resin) layer to the sensitive root surface of the tooth. Bonding seals up your nerve endings by protecting them from the food, drink, and even air you breathe. Hence, you may find your teeth become less sensitive after applying bonding material. The bonding procedure may require a local anaesthetic.
Gum surgery is also known as a gum graft. Suppose the tooth’s root has lost the gum layer, the dentist can remove a small amount of tissue from another location and attach it to the area with receding gum. This surgery aims to protect the root of the tooth and reduce sensitivity.
Root canal treatment
If tooth sensitivity is severe and other treatments don’t help, your dentist may recommend a root canal to treat the problem. A root canal removes the sensitive nerves from the tooth. This treatment is the most successful technique with minimal side effects. While the treatment sounds drastic, it allows you to say goodbye to tooth sensitivity for good.
We hope you have a clearer idea of the causes of tooth sensitivity to hot and cold. If your sensitive teeth make it difficult to live your daily life (eating and drinking), consider talking to your dentist to find a solution.
Schedule an appointment with one of our dentists at Eastman Dental if you experience discomfort associated with cavities or root damage. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatments prevent further complications.