Everyone’s teeth are sensitive to some degree; many people refrain from biting into ice cream, for example, because it’s just a little too cold to enjoy eating it that way. Tooth sensitivity exists on a spectrum, however, and it can quickly edge into outright discomfort and pain, forcing people to avoid hot coffee or ice cream altogether. The good news is that you don’t have to live with extreme tooth sensitivity! Antoine Dental Center is here to help. Read through the following article to determine what tooth sensitivity feels like, what causes it, what you can do to avoid it in the first place, and what treatment is available if tooth sensitivity is impeding your ability to enjoy certain food and drinks or causing you any undue pain or discomfort.
How do I know if I have sensitive teeth?
If you avoid certain hot or cold beverages because you know that your teeth will hurt or that those products will cause you discomfort, this might be the first sign that you’re suffering from tooth sensitivity. And hot or cold drinks aren’t the only indicator; people with tooth sensitivity sometimes report that cold air bothers them, as does breathing through their mouth. Eating and sour foods can also cause an adverse reaction. Even routine dental hygiene, like brushing and flossing, can cause twinges of discomfort for those with sensitive teeth.
Sometimes, the discomfort or pain may not stem from hypersensitivity but from other common ailments, like cavities, cracks (some fissures are so thin, you might not be able to see them yourself), or worn-down fillings. The issue might not even be strictly dental; gum disease, for example, can cause significant discomfort, which might be confused with tooth sensitivity. That’s why it’s imperative that you book an appointment in our Houston office if you experience any oral discomfort. Our team of specialists at Antoine Dental Center will be able to diagnose the source of your pain and recommend or provide treatment accordingly.
It’s also important to note that tooth sensitivity isn’t a condition that only affects older people. In fact, it occurs most often in people that are between 25 and 30 years old! No matter your age or dental health, if you are experiencing serious oral discomfort or pain, make an appointment at Antoine Dental Center’s Houston-based office. Help us help you!
What causes tooth sensitivity?
One of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity is worn tooth enamel. Tooth enamel is the protective layer that encases the surface of your teeth, protecting them from stimuli and wear. When the enamel is worn down, the sensitive nerve endings that it seals are exposed, which then cause discomfort or pain when they come in contact with extreme temperatures or certain substances.
Exploring the science of tooth sensitivity requires some knowledge of the anatomy of your teeth. Basically, enamel covers the crown of your tooth, which is the part that’s visible, above the gum line. The protective layer covering your tooth root, under the gum line, is called cementum. Both enamel and cementum overlay and protect the dentin—dentin becomes exposed when its protective coverings are worn away or when gums recede. Its exposure means that temperature and acidity can now permeate the dentin and rub against the nerves in the inside of the tooth, causing uncomfortable and often painful tooth sensitivity.
Conditions such as periodontal disease can also lead to tooth sensitivity, when the gums recede from the tooth and expose the surface of the root. Build-up of plague on the root can also cause tooth sensitivity, and cracked, chipped, or broken teeth will lead to major sensitivity if bacteria enters the inside of the tooth, causing painful inflammation.
What can I do to avoid tooth sensitivity?
Maintaining a thorough and dedicated dental care routine is the best way to avoid increasing tooth sensitivity. In addition to flossing, brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and using fluoride toothpaste, you should take care to use only soft, gentle strokes when you brush your teeth, as opposed to aggressive scrubbing, which can put too much pressure on the surface of your teeth. You should also take care to avoid abrasive toothpastes—if you’re not sure what an appropriate toothpaste might be, give Antoine Dental Center a call and we can provide you with an individualized recommendation suited for your unique needs. Regardless of your toothpaste selection, you should implement the following procedure when brushing your teeth:
- Use gentle, careful motions—if you brush too hard or aggressively, you may wear away at your tooth enamel, not just the plaque that you’re intending to clean.
- Be gentle with your gums—rubbing away at your gums can have an adverse effect on your tooth enamel and might wear away protective surfaces right at your tooth root. To avoid irritating your gums when you brush your teeth, you should avoid side-by-side brushing at your gum line and try to keep your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.
There are a number of diet choices you can make to reduce tooth sensitivity. This is because certain foods and drinks, especially acidic ones, can erode your tooth enamel over time, which is one of the main causes of increased tooth sensitivity. We recommend you take care with the following foods and drinks and consume them in moderation. You should avoid these foods and drinks entirely when treating existing tooth sensitivity.
- Carbonated drinks like soda
- Citrus fruits, including oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, clementines
- Sticky candy
- Wine and other alcoholic beverages
- Carbs with high sugar content
If you do decide to consume these products, there are certain actions you can take to limit their contact with the surface of your teeth and thus protect against tooth sensitivity. After consuming acidic products, you should rinse with water; doing this will balance your oral acidity levels. If you’ve been eating an acidic food, avoiding brushing your teeth right away. Instead, wait about an hour after finishing your snack; this will help your teeth re-strengthen their protective surfaces before you start scrubbing away at them. If you’re drinking acidic beverages, consider using a straw to avoid prolonging the drink’s direct contact with your teeth.
Does teeth whitening make my teeth more sensitive?
Sometimes, teeth whitening treatments can wear down tooth enamel. This kind of sensitivity is usually temporary, but continuing whitening treatment without consulting your dentist might exacerbate your sensitivity issues. That means you should head straight over to Antoine Dental Center if you think this might be your situation. We understand our patients’ desire for bright white teeth—in fact, part of our Houston office service is devoted to helping you achieve them! But we also know that some people’s teeth are more sensitive to certain bleaching treatments than others. It’s another reason why we encourage you to come in for a consultation before embarking on your tooth-whitening journey, so you can be sure that you avoid undue sensitivity down the road.
Some patients develop tooth sensitivity because they grind their teeth, which causes fractures that can led to extreme sensitivity. If you suspect you may be grinding your teeth, head to Antoine Dental Center to speak to one of our specialists about a mouth guard. We can outfit you with a custom one in our Houston office.
Remember, in addition to taking actions to avoid tooth enamel wear, you can also take actions that actively help and protect your enamel. When choosing foods to snack on, for example, you should choose items that help your mouth fight off the acid and bacteria that damage your teeth, including cheese, milk, plain yogurt, and fiber-rich fruits and veggies.
What are my treatment options?
First and foremost, you should make an appointment at Antoine Dental Center. Our highly-experienced and award-winning team of dentists will conduct a check-up to determine whether the cause of your dental discomfort is tooth sensitivity. If it is, we will walk you through all the appropriate options from our range of treatments and advise you on an optimum, individualized treatment plan.
- Special toothpaste: most pharmacies stock several over-the-counter, desensitizing toothpastes. Desensitizing toothpaste improves the relationship between the tooth’s surface and the nerve inside the tooth by blocking the transmission of sensations hitting the surface. Speak to an Antoine Dental Center specialist to determine which product might work for you.
- Fluoride: Dentist-applied fluoride treatment can strengthen tooth enamel, which reduces the pain caused by over-sensitivity. Head into our Houston office to see if fluoride treatment is right for you. We can also help you determine whether you are a good candidate for a prescription fluoride custom tray, which is an at-home treatment.
- A filling, crown, inlay, or bonding: When extreme sensitivity is the result of an exposed dental root, one suitable treatment is a process called bonding. An Antoine Dental Center specialist will apply bonding resin to the surfaces of the teeth that are causing you pain. Alternatively, our team might decide that the situation would benefit from a filling, crown or inlay, which can reduce sensitivity that arises from a flaw or decay.
- Gum graft: A relatively minor surgical procedure, gum grafts can be used to treat tooth sensitivity when the source of the sensitivity is receding gum tissue at a tooth root. Our experienced Antoine Dental Center team will remove a small sample of gum tissue from another part of your mouth and reattach to the site that is causing the sensitivity. Covering the exposed root will eliminate any sensitivity arising from that site.
- Root canal: In extreme cases, if your tooth sensitivity isn’t responding to the more common treatments listed above, a more intensive process like a root canal may be needed. If so, you will be able to receive root canal treatment in our Houston-based Antoine Dental Center and will be monitored for any lingering tooth sensitivity. Root canals, while a measure of last resort, are highly successful in treating lingering tooth sensitivity.
If you suspect you may be suffering from tooth sensitivity, you’re not alone. Give us a call and set up an appointment at Antoine Dental Center’s office in Houston. We’re here to help!
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It can be easy to lose sight of a few important things. One thing which often gets overlooked is the importance of your oral health. At Antoine Dental Center in Houston, TX, we’re proud to offer the convenience of same-day dental cleanings and exams and quality procedures for everything from braces to dental implants. Schedule an appointment and see why our patients love us.
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