Got Sensitive Teeth?

sensitive teeth - girl holding mug

Got Sensitive Teeth?

Tooth sensitivity, or dentin hypersensitivity (DH),  is one of the most common dental conditions, with over 40 million American adults suffering from it. At Hicks Dental Group in Prescott, we want to help you understand why your teeth are sensitive and what you can do about it. 

What is tooth sensitivity? 

Each tooth consists of three layers—enamel, dentin, and pulp. The enamel is the outermost layer that protects your teeth from decay. The enamel is made up mostly of minerals, primarily hydroxyapatite (calcium phosphate). It is the hardest, most mineralized substance in the body.

The hard enamel serves to protect the softer underlying layer of dentin. So when the enamel wears down, the dentin is exposed and sensitivity occurs. Dentin contains tubules which are tiny channels that lead to the center of the tooth, where the nerve is located. Gum recession, cavities, and root erosion can also cause the dentin to be exposed. DH is characterized by a sharp, sudden, painful reaction when the teeth are exposed to hot or cold, a chemical, or touch, not caused by a known dental condition. 

What causes it? 

There are several different factors that can lead to sensitive teeth: 

  • Tooth decay or chipped/cracked tooth. These conditions can expose the dentin, causing sensitivity. If this is the case, you’ll likely only feel sensitivity in one particular tooth or area in the mouth, rather than widespread sensitivity.
  • GERD. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or heartburn, causes acid to come up into the throat and mouth from the stomach and can weaken the enamel over time. 
  • Hard-bristled toothbrush or brushing too vigorously. Over time, this can wear down the protective layers of your teeth and expose microscopic canals leading to your tooth nerves.
  • Bruxism, or teeth grinding. This can also wear down the enamel and often happens while you are sleeping, so you may not be aware of it. Other signs that you’re grinding your teeth include visibly worn-down teeth or regularly waking up with a dull headache or jaw pain.
  • Whitening products. Whitening products like toothpastes, strips, and gels contain peroxide, which has been shown to irritate the tooth nerve.
  • Alcohol-based mouthwashes. Most of us think using mouthwash is a good thing, right? But overuse of alcohol-based mouthwashes can actually be detrimental to our teeth. 
  • Excessive plaque buildup. An excessive buildup of plaque can cause tooth enamel to wear away. Again, your teeth can become more sensitive as they lose the protection provided by the enamel.
  • Gum disease. Inflamed and sore gum tissue and receding gums can result in the exposure of the tooth’s root and the dentin. 
  • Acidic foods. Acidic and sugary foods can wear down the protective layers, causing pain and sensitivity to extreme temperatures.


Prevention 

You can help protect your enamel and prevent tooth sensitivity with the following suggestions:

  • Brush teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss once a day
  • Use an alcohol-free mouthwash
  • Take breaks from whitening the teeth
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Limit the consumption of sugary, starchy, and acidic foods
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Wear a mouthguard at night to prevent teeth grinding and clenching
  • See your dentist regularly
  • Quit smoking

Give us a Call 

If tooth sensitivity is a problem for you, schedule an appointment with us. The good news is that tooth sensitivity is very treatable. We can determine the root cause in order to know how to best treat it. Let our practitioners at Hicks Dental Group in Prescott help you so that you don’t have to continue living with sensitive teeth! Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we’ll look at the treatments for sensitive teeth.