You have just finished your run around Red Rock Canyon and you grab a bottle of water out of the cooler to rehydrate and refresh. You take a gulp of water, when suddenly – ouch! You feel a sudden sharp pain coming from one of your teeth. But why is your tooth so sensitive to cool liquids? Is it a dental emergency?
Having a sensitive tooth is a common occurrence, but few people understand the root causes or how to ease the pain. It’s time for some answers. Keep reading below to learn why teeth become sensitive and what you can do about it.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is an extremely common condition in the United States. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, at least 40 million adults suffer from sensitive teeth.
There is a wide variety of reasons why your teeth may be sensitive and causing you pain, including:
- Gum recession – Gums surround the tooth roots and protect the nerve endings of teeth. Gum recession often occurs naturally as one ages.
- Enamel erosion – Enamel is the hard outer coating that protects teeth. It can be worn away by a highly acidic diet, grinding teeth at night, brushing aggressively and other factors.
- Tooth decay – Cavities are often the source of sudden dental pain.
- Gum infection – Sensitive teeth can sometimes be a sign of worsening gum disease.
- Cracked tooth or crown – Even tiny cracks invisible to the naked eye can sometimes cause tooth pain and sensitivity.
How to Prevent Sensitive Teeth
While you cannot always prevent tooth sensitivity, there are some simple steps you can take at home to try to avoid it. For example, if you grind your teeth while you sleep, ask your dentist about wearing a custom mouth guard at night.
In addition, always choose a soft-bristled toothbrush and use gentle strokes when brushing – NOT aggressive or harsh scrubbing.
Small changes to your diet can also help prevent tooth sensitivity. For instance, try to limit how often you consume acidic food and drinks such as orange juice, carbonated drinks and wine, as these can all remove small amounts of tooth enamel over time.
How Your Dentist Can Help
If you are bothered by persistent tooth sensitivity, your best bet is to visit a local dentist. He or she will perform an oral examination to identify the root cause of the problem and prescribe appropriate treatment.
Depending on your unique circumstances, your dentist might recommend:
- Desensitizing toothpaste
- Applying fluoride, which can strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain
- Applying bonding resin to exposed root surfaces
- A surgical gum graft to protect exposed roots
- A root canal may be necessary in extreme cases
It is important to understand that even if your tooth sensitivity is minor, you should always give your dentist a call just in case. Ignoring a sensitive tooth now may lead to even greater dental trouble in the future. So, don’t wait! If you have a sensitive tooth, contact your dentist today.
About the Author
Dr. Kenneth Gasper has over three decades of experience helping men and women overcome oral health issues. An active member of the Colorado Dental Association, he regularly takes continuing education courses at many of the leading dental institutes in the world. For more oral care tips, visit the Aesthetic Dentistry by Design website or call Dr. Gasper at 719-599-0700.