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Tooth Sensitivity Causes and Treatment Options

Also called dentin hypersensitivity, tooth sensitivity impacts either the teeth or exposed surfaces of the roots. Such discomfort may be the result of the teeth’s protective enamel getting thinner or of gum recession. Aggressive oral hygiene or poor oral care can be problematic. When the dentin, or underlying surface, is exposed, the protection provided by enamel and gums is reduced. More than half of the population suffers from dentin hypersensitivity.

Symptoms of Sensitive Teeth

Certain triggers may cause discomfort or pain in people who have dentin hypersensitivity. This discomfort may occur at the roots and can be a sharp, sudden jolt. The most common triggers include cold foods, hot foods, hot beverages, cold beverages, cold air, acidic or sweet foods, acidic or sweet beverages, brushing or flossing, mouth rinses that are alcohol-based, and cold water, particularly during routine cleanings at the dentist. Symptoms may arrive or disappear over time with no noticeable reason; they may range from intense to mild.

Tooth Sensitivity Causes

Oral sensitivity has many potential causes. You may have worn down your tooth enamel with a hard toothbrush or by brushing too aggressively. Your teeth may have eroded because of the consumption of foods and beverages that are highly acidic. Erosion can also occur because of GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, gastroparesis, or bulimia. These conditions cause acid to rise up from the esophagus and stomach, wearing down teeth.

According to the American Dental Association:

In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin.
Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.

The gums may have receded and left the surface of the root exposed. This may due to periodontal disease. A habit at night of clenching or grinding your teeth may also be a culprit. A tooth may also be sensitive temporarily following such dental work as getting crowns or fillings or bleaching of the teeth. In this case, the condition should improve within several weeks or months. With persistent problems, a root canal may be necessary. Sometimes after a filling, the tooth that received the filling becomes sensitive when you bite down. A basic bite adjustment can fix this, or if the filling is too high, the dentist can lower it.

Decay, teeth that are broken or chipped, and fillings or crowns that are worn down can cause sensitivity. This will be localized in one certain tooth or area of the mouth, rather than in the majority of the mouth. Cracked teeth can be a problem as they can become bacteria-filled due to plaque, causing inflammation in the tooth’s pulp. In the most severe cases, abscess and infection can result.

Plaque buildup itself may be the root of the pain. Even long-term usage of acidic mouthwash can cause pain by exposing dentin and further damaging it. Gingivitis is sometimes at the heart of tooth pain because gum tissue that is sore and inflamed can expose the root of the tooth.

Diagnosing Tooth Pain

When you experience signs of dentin hypersensitivity, you should make an appointment at your dental local Brooklyn dental clinic. There, experts will examine your dental health and inspect for such potential problems as loose fillings, cavities, or recessed gums. Any of these can cause sensitivity. Your dentist may do this while in the process of your routine cleaning. In this procedure, they also clean your teeth, visually examining them. Dental instruments may be used to touch your teeth, checking for sensitivity, and X-rays may be called for to rule out cavities and other causes.

Treatment Options for Tooth Sensitivity

For mild sensitivity, over-the-counter treatments may be used. For hygiene, find a toothpaste that is labeled as specifically formulated for sensitive teeth. They will exclude irritating ingredients as well as potentially including ingredients to help desensitize and block discomfort from traveling to the tooth’s nerve. For a mouthwash, select one that is alcohol-free. It will be less irritating to a mouth prone to pain. Choose toothbrushes that are softer, and use them gently.

Sensitive teeth never truly disappear unless the initial reason for the pain is completely eliminated, but the symptoms can be reduced or even seem to vanish for some time. Each dentist favors a different treatment type following proper diagnosis. Some simple steps to take are avoiding foods that are highly acidic. When you use a desensitizing toothpaste, consider spreading a thin layer of it on exposed tooth roots just before you go to bed.

If dentin hypersensitivity is making eating difficult, speak to your dentist regarding a solution. Many kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes are on the market over the counter, intended for painful roots. Prescription options are also available if these do not offer relief. Dentists should also be consulted for symptoms of root damage or cavities. Quick treatment of these conditions will prevent complications. Symptoms for these include spontaneous tooth pain with no obvious cause, sensitivity localized in a single tooth, sharper rather than milder pain, staining on teeth’s surfaces, and pain when chewing or biting down.

More serious causes may require dental procedures to stop the pain. The American Dental Association recommends the use of a fluoride gel, which strengthens tooth enamel, reducing the amount of sensations that are transmitted. The ADA also advises surgical gum grafts for situations where gum tissue has been lost at the root. This guards the root, reducing sensitivity. Finally, the ADA suggests root canals if the sensitivity is persistent and severe. In a root canal, the infected or inflamed inner pulp of the tooth is removed, the tooth’s inside is painstakingly cleaned as well as disinfected, then the tooth is filled and sealed.

If you grind your teeth, consider acquiring a mouthguard. You can also train yourself not to clench your jaw or grind at night. Be mindful of these activities during your waking hours. Reduce caffeine and stress before bed. If all else fails, the mouthguard will prevent any jaw-grinding from causing damage.

Treating Underlying Medical Causes After Tooth Sensitivity Diagnosis

Because some mouth pain has underlying medical conditions as its source, in such cases treatment must be sought for those conditions. GERD can receive treatment with the use of acid reducers, for example. A patient who vomits persistently because of bulimia should receive treatment with a supervising psychiatrist. A sinus infection may also result in pain in the teeth and jaw. The inflammation of your sinuses, which the infection fills with pressure, causes compression on dental nerve endings.

Home Remedies for Sensitive Teeth

A saltwater rinse can be used with dental pain as a home remedy. Salt is effective as an antiseptic and is capable of helping to reduce inflammation. To alleviate pain symptoms from sensitivity, use a saltwater rinse to gargle twice a day. This rinse should be made with 1/2 or 3/4 tsp of salt added to a glass of lukewarm water, the combination being well mixed together before you swish it in your mouth for up to half a minute. Then spit the solution out.

Hydrogen peroxide is another mild antiseptic as well as a disinfectant. While generally used for the sterilization of burns, cuts, and minor wounds to prevent infection, it can also be used as a mouth rinse for the healing of gums and prevention of inflammation. Using 3 percent solution of hydrogen peroxide, add two caps to equal parts of warm water. Swish this within your mouth for up to half a minute. Spit it out, then rinse with water to remove any remnant.

Turmeric is not only for cooking; it also has anti-inflammatory properties. It contains the compound curcumin which has this capacity. For oral health as well as relieving sensitivity pain, try massaging the ground turmeric into the gums and teeth. You can also make a paste from 1sp turmeric, 1/2 tsp mustard oil, and 1/2 tsp salt. Use this paste twice daily on gums and teeth.

With warm water, honey can be used as a mouth rinse. Honey can be used in wound management as it is antibacterial agent that reduces inflammation, swelling, and pain, speeding healing. Use a spoonful of honey added to warm water.

Green tea is also known for its health benefits. Make sure the tea you use is unsweetened and rinse your mouth with it twice a day. This reduces inflammation as well as offering prevention of infection.

When to See a Dentist About Your Tooth Sensitivity Issues and Pain

The first time you experience dentin sensitivity, you should consult your local Brooklyn Oceanview Dental Care dentist. Thereafter, there are certain warning signs that you should not ignore as treatment continues. A toothache that lingers for longer than 48 hours is one. Pain that is throbbing or sharp and aching and does not subside is another. Seek a dentist or other health professional if you have a thunderclap or migraine headache extending to your teeth. A fever that appears to coincide with a toothache should also not go ignored.

While there is a wide array of reasons why sudden pain may occur in a tooth or in a wider region of the mouth, most of them have a connection to the erosion of gums or enamel. Hypersensitivity that appears seemingly overnight should be brought to the attention of your dentist. Proper oral care is a must to avoid this and other complications.

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