We hear our patients complain about sensitive teeth every single day. It is a problem common to many people, and it has various causes.
This blog will describe the most common causes of sensitive teeth and give you advice on how to address them.
Teeth are hollow, and the internal chamber is filled with nerves and blood vessels. These nerves sense pressure, temperature and pain. The enamel coating a tooth insulates and protects these nerves from feeling these sensations too strongly.
Sensitivity in a tooth is typically the result of an absence of enamel or a disruption in the layer of enamel covering a tooth. The structure directly underneath enamel, called dentin, is porous; it allows various sensations like cold or sweets to reach the nerve when enamel is not there to stop them.
The following list of causes of sensitive teeth includes the different ways that these sensations get past our protective coating of enamel and reach the nerve through the pores in the dentin.
Cavities happen when bacteria penetrate through the hard outer layer of enamel. This creates a weak spot or break in the enamel, and it allows the feeling of cold, hot or sweets to reach the nerve. The bigger the cavity, the more likely it is to cause sensitivity. Early cavities are not usually sensitive. Make sure you keep up with consistent dental visits to catch cavities as early as possible!
We have seen a huge increase in cracked teeth over the last ten years. Cracks usually result from nighttime clenching or grinding, a habit called bruxism. Cracks in enamel also occur when teeth experience a drastic temperature change. For instance, chewing on ice and then taking a big sip of hot soup can crack your enamel. Do not ever chew ice!
In a healthy mouth, the roots of teeth are surrounded by bone and gums. When the gums recede or pull away from the tooth, they expose the roots of teeth. Roots do not have enamel covering them, so they do not have insulation and protection. When gum recession exposes the roots of teeth, the teeth have a very high risk of being sensitive.
Over time, enamel may become thinner, and as it thins, it provides less protection and insulation. The thinner enamel gets, the more you can feel temperatures like extreme hot and cold.
There are two main causes of thin enamel: abrasion and acid erosion. Abrasion is the slow polishing away of the enamel by gritty materials, like whitening toothpastes or eating tough, grainy foods. Acid erosion can occur from external acids like lemon juice or internal acids like acid reflux or GERD.
The tooth sensitivity caused by teeth whitening is only temporary. It is not the result of any permanent damage to the nerves inside the tooth. The chemicals that whiten the teeth can be irritating to the nerve and make teeth sensitive to cold.
There are several important steps in treating sensitive teeth.
Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists. They will evaluate your teeth to determine the cause of sensitivity, and then they will give you recommendations to treat it.