Teeth can become sensitive, causing discomfort and pain. The sensation is triggered by hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods or drinks, or just by breathing cold air. If the pain is sharp or sudden, it could mean it has activated your tooth nerve endings.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
If the dentin, the underlayer of your teeth, becomes exposed from a loss of enamel or receding gums, you will experience sensitivity. If the roots become exposed, the tiny tubes leading to the center of the nerve (pulp) let the hot or cold to reach the nerve, causing the pain.
There are several things that can cause the sensitivity.
- Brushing too hard. Using a toothbrush that is too hard or excessive brushing will wear away the enamel and can cause the gums to recede. Either of these can cause the dentin to become exposed.
- Receding gums. If periodontal disease is present, the gums will pull away and expose the roots.
- Gum disease. When the gums become inflamed, the ligaments that support the tooth become lax and the root surface can become exposed
- Cracked teeth. Chipped or broken teeth can fill with bacteria and lead to the pulp.
- Teeth grinding. Extended teeth grinding or clenching will wear down the enamel.
- Some tooth whiteners. Products that use baking soda and peroxide can contribute to enamel loss.
- Age. People who are between the ages of 25 and 30 report the most tooth sensitivity.
- Plaque. If plaque extends to the root, you will have problems.
- Mouthwash. Long term use of some mouthwashes that contain acids can actually do more harm than good. Ask your dentist about the preferred brand of mouthwash.
- Acidic foods. Citrus, tomatoes, pickles, and teas are loaded with acid and can contribute to the discomfort.
- Routine dental work. Sometimes following routine dental procedures, your teeth will become sensitive for a period of time
Discuss any sensitivity with your dental team. There are procedures that can be used, as well as modification of certain food or drink consumption.