If you’ve ever felt pain in your teeth when eating something cold, having a hot drink, or even eating sweet or spicy foods, you’ve felt the discomfort of sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth can also occur spontaneously, even when you’re not eating or drinking. Teeth that are very sensitive may even hurt when exposed to cold air.
Research shows 1 in 8 people suffer from tooth sensitivity, and it’s one of the most common reasons people seek help from a family dentist in Asheville NC. What are the most common causes and solutions for sensitive teeth? The answers may surprise you!
Cause: Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard
Many people are surprised to hear that aggressive teeth brushing can cause more harm to teeth than good, especially when using a stiff-bristled toothbrush. When brushing teeth with too much force, and with a medium or stiff-bristled brush, you can actually wear away your tooth enamel over time.
Tooth enamel protects teeth from the temperatures of what we eat and drink. Without tooth enamel, these temperatures can travel through tiny passageways in the layer underneath enamel, called dentin, and can reach the nerves at the center of the tooth, therefore causing teeth to hurt when exposed to outside temperatures.
Solution: Switch Your Toothbrush
Fortunately, making the switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush is easy, as is changing your brushing habits. Thorough brushing of your teeth is important, but aggressive brushing is never necessary. The American Dental Association recommends using a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your teeth gently yet thoroughly.
You can also use a desensitizing toothpaste as recommended by your family dentist in Asheville NC. Remember to wait at least 30 minutes after eating to brush your teeth, or closer to an hour if you’ve consumed anything sugary or acidic, to protect your tooth enamel from damage.
Cause: Consuming Acidic Foods and Drinks
Another cause of tooth enamel damage that can lead to tooth sensitivity is consuming acidic foods or beverages. These can include things we typically think of as acidic, such as citrus fruits and tomatoes, but sugary foods and drinks can also be acidic enough to damage teeth.
Consuming sugar causes oral bacteria to produce acids when breaking down in the mouth, and these acids can then attack tooth enamel, which can cause tooth sensitivity over time. Added sugar in foods and drinks is worse than consuming the natural sugars present in fruits, as fruits have water and fiber to help buffer their effect on our teeth as we eat them.
Solution: Focus on Nutrient-Rich Foods
You don’t have to give up foods or drinks with added sugar completely to avoid tooth enamel damage, but keeping your sugar consumption to a minimum can go a long way towards protecting your teeth. Instead, focus primarily on nutrient-rich foods that can help your teeth remain strong.
These foods include vegetables, dark leafy greens, lean proteins such as fish, sweet potatoes, and whole grains. As for beverages, water is always your best bet!
In children, healthy eating combined with dental sealants in Asheville can help prevent cavities and keep teeth free of decay as your little one gets older. Dental sealants form an additional layer of protection over chewing surfaces of the teeth to seal out the acids and bacteria that can cause decay.
Cause: An Injury to the Tooth
Any type of injury to the tooth has the potential to cause tooth sensitivity as the result of enamel damage. A chipped or cracked tooth can lead to tooth sensitivity, and the discomfort can be mild or severe depending on the injury. Worn-down teeth as the result of teeth grinding may also cause tooth sensitivity.
Tooth decay can also cause sensitive teeth, especially once the cavity has gotten deep enough to affect the nerves at the center of the tooth. A damaged dental restoration, such as a damaged filling, can also cause mild or severe tooth sensitivity. Dental crowns or bridges that need to be replaced may also lead to discomfort when eating hot or cold foods.
Solution: Restorative Dentistry
Your dentist can let you know if you need restorative dentistry when you come in for your regular exam. If you have a chipped or cracked tooth, you may need dental bonding or a dental crown to fix the problem and help alleviate your sensitivity.
If you have a damaged dental restoration, your dentist can help fix it. If you have teeth that are damaged to the point that they affect the nerve tissue inside your tooth, you may have to consider root canals in Asheville. Your dentist can let you know what to expect during your appointment!
Cause: Gum Disease
Gum disease is another major culprit when it comes to tooth sensitivity, as it can cause tooth roots to become exposed during the gum recession that happens as gum disease advances. Nearly half of all American adults are estimated to have some form of gum disease, which happens in stages.
When tooth roots are exposed, which can happen gradually in gum disease, you can experience sudden or severe sensitivity. Other symptoms present in gum disease can include puffy-looking gum tissue, bleeding when brushing, and bad breath that doesn’t seem to go away.
Solution: Periodontal Therapy and Fluoride Treatment
Just because gum disease is common doesn’t mean it’s not a serious oral health condition. Gum disease requires treatment to go away, and your dentist will typically suggest a deep cleaning (also called a root planing and scaling) to help reverse the condition.
This cleaning allows your dentist to remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria that have accumulated around the gumline and help smooth your gum tissue so that it can reattach to your teeth.
Your dentist may also suggest a fluoride application if you have sensitive teeth from gum disease or another oral health issue. This simple procedure is painless and can be done in-office. Fluoride can help strengthen your tooth enamel so that you experience less tooth sensitivity.
Do You Have Sensitive Teeth?
If you’re one of the millions of Americans who experiences tooth sensitivity, you’re not alone, and there is treatment available. Contact us at Saunders DDS to discover what could be causing your tooth sensitivity and what you can do about it. We work with both adults and children as a family dentist in Asheville NC to prevent and treat oral health conditions. Call us at (828) 277-6060, or use our contact form to request an appointment with us!