tooth sensitivity

Tooth Sensitivity Causes, Treatment, & Prevention

In Dental Health by Dr. James James III DDS

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General tooth sensitivity is an unfortunate fact of life for many people. Excessively cold or hot drinks, cold air, and sweet foods can cause them pain in their day to day lives. Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent and treat tooth sensitivity.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity has two common causes, heredity and gum recession. Some people are just born with more sensitive teeth and this trait tends to run in families.

The most common cause of tooth sensitivity is due to gum recession during adulthood. As the gum line shrinks, it exposes the root of the tooth which is not covered by a hard layer of enamel. This part of the tooth is much more sensitive to things like temperature and excess sweets.

General sensitivity that affects most of the mouth is usually not a symptom of any disorder. Local sensitivity that only affects part of the mouth may be a sign of a cavity or exposed roots. If you are experiencing a sudden change in sensitivity, your dentist can perform an exam to determine the cause.

Many things can lead to changes in tooth sensitivity. For example, some people grind their teeth or clench their jaw when under high stress which can lead to a more tender mouth.  Certain foods or drinks, such as excessively salty snacks or sweet drinks, draw fluids out of teeth at the root and can make nerve endings more sensitive.

Dental Products for Sensitive Teeth

Toothpastes designed for sensitive teeth contain desensitizing ingredients to make teeth less reactive as well as fluoride to strengthen enamel, both of which help with reducing sensitivity. However, their effects need to build up and it takes regular use to see results.

Fluoride rinses can also help bolster the strength of sensitive teeth. Fluoride helps harden the surface of exposed roots, making them more resistant.

To accelerate results when using a product for sensitive teeth, after your nighttime brushing, spit out as much toothpaste as possible but don’t rinse. This allows the desensitizing agent to soak in while you sleep.

Prescription toothpastes can help people that are really struggling with tooth sensitivity. These toothpastes have higher doses of fluoride and desensitizing ingredients than over the counter options and can help people see results faster. Prescription fluoride rinses and gels in trays are also available to aid teeth in distress.

Tooth Sensitivity Prevention

For most people, the best way to prevent sensitivity is to avoid gum recession. Do everything you can to maintain good gum health. Healthy practices include using toothbrushes with soft bristles, flossing regularly, and using automated toothbrushes with features that help prevent over brushing. The healthier your gums, the less sensitive your teeth will be, as healthy gums keep the root of the tooth covered and safe.

For reasons that are not entirely understood, some people just have more sensitive teeth. This often runs in families and these people will experience sensitivity regardless of age or gum health. Tooth bleaching products can particularly aggravate naturally sensitive teeth, so these people should avoid strong whitening products and avoid getting them on their gum line.

With good brushing and flossing practices, teeth stay healthy and strong and sensitivity can often be avoided!

Hidden Valley Dentistry is committed to providing excellent dental care to the Roanoke, VA area. Dr. James and Dr. Deyerle have over 50 years of combined dental experience, and our practice has been well-respected throughout the community for decades. Each member of our kind and welcoming staff strives to continue making our community smile even brighter! Schedule a dental appointment with us, and we’ll bring your smile to life.

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