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Tooth Sensitivity - Causes, Symptoms, When to Seek Help

For those of us dealing with tooth sensitivity, simple acts like eating and drinking can be a painful chore. Extreme temperatures of foods, as well as extremely sweet or sour foods, can cause uncomfortable twinges. Many times, people that are plagued with extra sensitivity adapt their consumption of food and beverage to accommodate this discomfort.

Although learning to adjust to this painful condition is a good short term strategy for reducing discomfort, you need to look deeper into what is causing your sensitivity. An informed discussion with your dentist can be very helpful and important to determine if your particular situation is just the result of unfortunate genetics or lifestyle choices, or whether you have something more serious happening.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity? Unfortunately, over 45 million Americans are victim to this annoying and painful condition, characterized by a flash of pain or a dull, throbbing ache when triggered by certain foods or temperature changes. Pain can be intermittent or steady, dull or sharp, but no matter what you experience, it is an inconvenience that no one should have to endure long term.

Due to the sugary and acidic nature of our diets, and also due to aging, the hard outer surface of our teeth called enamel gradually wears thin, exposing a softer layer of tissue underneath called dentin. Dentin is a tissue that lies closer to the inner nerves and soft tissues of the tooth. Any fluctuation in temperature or other irritating procedures such as tooth whitening, grinding, clinching, even routine hygiene appointments, can wear down protective enamel over time. In addition, flaws in the enamel, or cavities, are open doors to softer tissues in your teeth. The larger these openings get, the more likely you are to develop infections and other issues that can lead to pain and discomfort. Even brushing and flossing vigorously can cause tissue damage; it is best to treat teeth and gums gently and with care.


Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity

As discussed previously, symptoms of tooth sensitivity include, but are not limited to:

  1. Intermittent pain in and around teeth when eating or drinking

  2. Burning or tingling sensations in the mouth when teeth are exposed to extreme temperatures, extremely sugary or sour foods

  3. Persistent, dull aching regardless of whether teeth are exposed to external stimuli

  4. Sensitivities to environmental factors, such as cold blasts of air, dry environment, etc.

These symptoms, when they persist, can be signs of a more serious condition that is developing. It is important that you discuss the severity of your symptoms and options for treatment, both at home and in your dentist’s office. In treating the underlying causes of sensitivity, many patients report that symptoms subside and in some cases, they may even disappear.

When Signs and Symptoms Of Sensitivity Go Untreated---More Serious Issues To Look for Sensitivity is a sign that something in the mouth that is inflamed, and this means that eventually, if left untreated, more serious conditions and diseases of the oral cavity are likely to develop. Sensitivity may be an indicator that there are cavities exposing soft tissues and even nerves close to the jawline. If more than one tooth is affected, you may be suffering from receding gums or exposed roots. The more soft tissue that is exposed in the mouth, the more likely that bacteria can enter those compromised areas and cause infection. Any disease or infection left untreated in the mouth can create long term health consequences, so it is important to find the underlying cause with your dental health professionals and treat it accordingly. If you have been experiencing pain or discomfort for a matter of weeks, let your health professionals know so that you can engage in preventative rather than restorative care.


Things You Can Do To Rebuild and Protect Your Teeth

Fortunately, sensitivity does not have to be long term. There are things you can do to prevent and, in some cases, even reverse the painful conditions that tooth sensitivity causes. Choose a toothpaste that is enamel building and protecting, and remember not to brush too hard---it is possible to wear away enamel simply by brushing. Avoid “trigger” foods, anything extremely acidic, sugary, sticky, and high carb foods that stick to your teeth and start the decay process the minute they enter your mouth. Choose to snack on soft foods, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy options that won’t irritate your sensitive tissues. In addition, monitor the temperature of your food and drink and do your best to temper them to maintain comfort during the stages of rebuilding your oral health. Maintain good oral hygiene at all times---brushing and flossing daily, making regular visits to your dentist, and eating a nutritionally balanced diet are all corrective measures you can take to rebuild the health of your mouth.

No one should have to endure long term tooth sensitivity; it is a source of not only discomfort, but stress. With all of the preventative innovations and tools dentists have at their disposal today, finding techniques that work to reduce your condition will be simple. Being proactive, and taking your dental care seriously is important. Visit with your healthcare professional and create a preventative plan that you can carry out in office and at home in your daily life. This will ensure that your healthy mouth enhances your life well into your golden years.

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