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Valley Dental Associates
9199 Reisterstown Road, Suite 206B, Owings Mills, MD 21117

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Understanding Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity is a relatively common problem. The most common symptom is a sharp, stinging feeling whenever a person consumes a food or beverage that is hot or cold. Sometimes even sweet or sour foods can cause the same sensation. Fortunately, this common issue is easy to provide treatment for in the comfort of your own home.

As anyone with sensitive teeth and gums will tell you, it is a condition that will make you feel miserable. It makes routine dental hygiene activities such as brushing and flossing painful. It can even strike when you breathe in cold air. Knowing what causes your tooth sensitivity is the first step to determining what you can do to manage and reverse uncomfortable symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Once you’ve developed a plan of action, you will find that you will be able to enjoy activities and foods that you may have been avoiding due to the problem.

In most instances, tooth sensitivity is caused by worn tooth enamel. Once enamel has worn down enough, the root of the tooth becomes exposed to extreme sensations. The roots of the tooth contain delicate nerves that cause sharp pains to occur when exposed to particular sensations. This condition can also be caused by tooth decay, cracked, receded gums, gum disease and aggressively brushing the teeth.

Knowing the underlying cause behind your sensitive teeth is essential. Without this knowledge, you will be unable to successfully treat the issue. Sensitivity caused by exposed dentin and nerves is generally treated with special toothpastes and fluoride treatments. Discomfort caused by receding gums can be treated via the use of dental sealants. These sealants will block sensations from reaching the nerve of your tooth. Root canals are sometimes prescribed in cases where tooth sensitivity has been caused by issues within the pulpy area of the tooth.

The Reasons Behind Tooth Sensitivity

  1. Enamel can break down when you brush your teeth too aggressively. Hard-bristled toothbrushes can also cause the enamel to wear down. Use gentle brushing motions and a soft toothbrush whenever you brush your teeth.
  2. Consuming acidic foods and drinks can cause sensitivity. Stay away from citrus, tomatoes, pickles and other types of acidic foods.
  3. Teeth grinding wears away the enamel of the teeth, leading to fractures and sensitivity. If you grind your teeth, talk to your dentist about wearing a night guard when you sleep.
  4. Certain ingredients found in tooth-whitening toothpastes, mouthwashes and other products may lead to sensitivity. Switch brands if you suspect that this is the primary cause of your sensitivity.
  5. Some mouthwashes contain alcohol, as well as other ingredients, that can lead to sensitive teeth and gums. Switch to a neutral rinse, or refrain from using mouthwash at all.
  6. Gum disease can cause the gums to recede, leading to sensitivity. Gum inflammation treatments and dental sealants can address the issue.
  7. Tooth sensitivity after receiving a procedure such as a root canal, extraction or tooth filling is common. If the sensitivity doesn’t go away, see your dentist as soon as possible so that he or she can rule out an infection.
  8. An untreated chipped or cracked tooth can cause sensitivity. It can even lead to severe pain if you fail to have the damaged tooth treated.
  9. Tooth decay can show up around the edges of fillings. This happens when an older filling begins to fracture or leak, releasing acid and bacteria that break down the enamel of the tooth. A new filling is the best way to treat this condition.

In most cases, tooth sensitivity is easily addressed. However, there are some instances where it can indicate a serious underlying problem with your dental health. Seeking out evaluation from a dental professional is important to rule out serious conditions. For most cases, dentists will recommend that a patient begin using a specially formulated toothpaste or receive fluoride treatments. Both remedies strengthen the enamel of the tooth and reduce the number of uncomfortable sensations that a patient feels.

How You Can Treat Tooth Sensitivity

  • Visit with your dentist in Owings Mills at least once every six months.
  • Establish a dental hygiene routine at home.
  • Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Use gentle motions when brushing.
  • Try to choose toothpaste that is made to address tooth sensitivity.
  • Use fluoride mouthwashes.
  • Wear a mouth guard at night so you don’t grind your teeth.
  • Stay away from acidic beverages and foods.

When you know the cause of your tooth sensitivity, you will be able to work with your dentist to establish an effective treatment plan. For example, if you grind your teeth, your dentist may prescribe a custom-fitted mouth guard that you will wear when you sleep. This will help prevent enamel erosion and tooth fractures that can cause sensitivity.

An effective way of warding off sensitivity is to refrain from consuming acidic fruits, carbonated drinks and wine. All of these items wear down enamel. If you do consume an acidic food or drink, be sure to avoid brushing your teeth until some time has passed, as brushing too soon can lead to further erosion. To neutralize the impact of an acidic food or beverage, drink water or milk shortly afterwards.

Tips to Help with Sensitive Teeth

While it’s important that you seek out expert advice from your dentist, the following tips can help when it comes to tooth sensitivity:

  1. Discover Desensitizing Toothpaste – Specially formulated toothpastes contain ingredients that keep extreme sensations from hitting the tooth’s nerves. They tend to work after just a few applications.
  2. Ask About Fluoride – Your dentist can apply fluoride to sensitive areas of your teeth. These treatments strengthen enamel and prevent sensitivity.
  3. Find the Remedy at the Roots – A gum graft placed over the tooth’s root can eliminate pain and sensitivity caused by receding gums.

In addition to being treatable, sensitive teeth and gums are also preventable. Preventing this painful condition is as simple as following good oral hygiene practices. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing once a day, using a soft-bristled toothbrush, brushing gently and seeing your dentist regularly.

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