When you want your teeth to chill out, but you also don’t....
Eating ice cream should be a pretty wonderful experience. Sipping a steaming cup of coffee should be equal parts restorative and energizing. But if you have sensitive teeth, pain comes along and ruins the party. Read on to learn more about common causes of sensitive teeth, plus how to solve them.
1. The protective layers of your teeth are more worn out than your favorite pair of jeans.
Enamel, the outermost layer of your teeth, covers your crowns, aka the parts of your teeth above your gum line, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). It’s supposed to help shield the sensitive innards of your teeth from things that can cause sensitivity. In a similar vein, a substance called cementum protects your teeth’s roots, which contain the pulpy center that holds blood vessels and nerves.
In a phenomenon known as dental erosion, your enamel and cementum can get worn away. This may eventually compromise the underlying dentin, which is a tissue containing hollow canals called tubules. At that point, the tubules can allow hot, cold, sweet, sticky, or acidic foods and drinks to reach the nerves and cells inside your teeth, resulting in a shudder-inducing zing of pain.
Dental erosion usually happens when too much acid (like from soda, acid reflux, or excessive vomiting) damages your teeth over time, the ADA says. You can’t reverse it, so it’s a good idea to take care of your teeth by avoiding acidic beverages, or at least using a straw when possible, says the ADA.
The ADA also recommends waiting an hour after you eat or drink something acidic, then brushing your teeth with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. This allows your saliva a little time to try to buffer against and remove the acids, and the fluoride toothpaste can help strengthen your teeth as a bonus.
2. A cavity (dun dun dun) has burrowed down into the dentin of your teeth.
Cavities, also known as tooth decay or dental caries, are little holes in the surface of your teeth, according to the Mayo Clinic. They can arise due to plaque, a relentless bacterial film that feeds on food and drink debris. If plaque isn’t removed often enough via brushing and flossing, it can create small openings in your enamel.
Without prompt treatment, cavities can actually drill past the enamel of your teeth and into the dentin, where they can cause some serious sensitivity.
3. Your gums have receded, leaving delicate nerves exposed.
Your gums have the important job of helping to keep your teeth in place. But sometimes, in what’s known as gum recession, they stealthily pull away from where you expect them to be, leaving you vulnerable to pain and sensitivity. It’s basically like your gums are ghosting your teeth.
A few things can contribute to gum recession, like having gum disease, brushing your teeth too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush, sustaining a gum injury, smoking, or even just genetics, Treatment for gum recession ultimately depends on what caused it in the first place, but using a softer toothbrush (or brushing more gently) may help.
4. You have a cracked tooth.
If the mere thought of having a cracked tooth makes you wince, your instincts are right on target. A cracked tooth can expose your tooth’s pulp, the soft tissue that contains nerves and blood vessels, leaving it open to irritation,
One major sign you’re dealing with this is a sharp pain when you bite down. Unfortunately, tooth sensitivity can also come with the territory. Chewing hard foods, being hit in the mouth, and simply having brittle teeth may all lead to having a cracked tooth, as well as grinding and clenching your teeth,
5. Your teeth are rioting after an intense bleaching session.
A whiter smile isn’t the only thing you can get after using tooth bleaching products—it can also leave you with sensitive teeth. If you bleach your teeth occasionally before a big event, or just a few times a year, you might escape this side effect. But if you do it regularly, use products that are too strong for your teeth, the peroxide in the bleach can wear down your teeth’s enamel. This can aggravate the tubules in your dentin, causing sensitivity.
In many cases, desensitizing toothpaste (which works to block transmission of sensation from your tooth’s surface to the nerve) can help, the ADA says. But if experimenting with that for a while doesn’t help, see a dentist in Boardman, Ohio like Dr. Crouse.
With any luck, you’ll finally be able to enjoy hot drinks, sweet desserts, and all other sensitivity-causing treats in peace.