Tooth sensitivity is a common dental problem characterized by a sudden, sharp pain that is aggravated by certain substances or temperatures, but is temporary. Here are some causes of tooth sensitivity and what you can do to find relief.
1. Eroded enamel
When enamel is worn down, it exposes the dentin of the tooth. This leads to more sensitivity as your teeth lose protection provided by the enamel. To keep your enamel from eroding, practice good oral care with daily brushing and flossing and frequent dental check-ups.
2. Tooth decay
The acids produced by bacteria in plaque can cause the breakdown of the tooth structure, resulting in pain and sensitivity. Thus, it is important to maintain routine oral care and avoid sugary foods, which promote bacterial growth.
3. Cracked teeth
Cracked teeth can become filled with bacteria and cause inflammation in the pulp of the tooth. This may lead to abscess or infection. If this is the case, you are likely to feel sensitivity in one particular tooth and an appointment with your dentist is necessary.
4. Bruxism (teeth grinding)
Grinding your teeth can wear down the enamel and fracture teeth, leading to sensitivity. Address the stress causing you to grind your teeth or talk to your dentist about getting a protective mouth guard or splint.
5. Gum recession
Gum recession is when your gums pull away from teeth, exposing the tooth root. The tooth root does not have enamel to protect it, thus, it is much more sensitive than the rest of the tooth. Gum recession often happens with age, but also can be a sign of gum disease as well as a result of brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush.
6. Brushing too hard
Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear down the enamel or encourage gum recession. Adjust your technique and get a soft-bristled toothbrush.
7. Using a whitening toothpaste
Whitening toothpastes contain abrasives that can be harsh on your teeth and cause sensitivity. To relieve sensitivity, use a desensitizing toothpaste or see your dentist to get a desensitizing sealant application.
8. Long-term use of mouthwash
Like whitening toothpastes, some over-the-counter mouthwash contain harsh chemicals and alcohol that can make your teeth more sensitive, especially if you already have eroded enamel. Switch to a fluoride mouthwash or skip it altogether. Mouthwash is not necessary if you maintain good oral care by brushing and flossing every day.
9. Acidic food
Avoid acidic food, like soda, sour candy, and alcohol, which can erode enamel, increasing the likelihood of sensitivity. Instead, opt for fruit, vegetables, cheese, yogurt and water, which support a healthy mouth. If you do end up consuming acidic food, don't brush your teeth right after, when your enamel is weakened by the acid, but wait at least an hour.
10. Sensitivity after dental treatment
Teeth might be sensitive after a teeth whitening treatment, cleaning, and some tooth restoration procedures. These symptoms should disappear after 2-4 weeks. If they persist, contact your dentist as it can be a sign of infection.