You probably have experienced occasional tooth sensitivity to foods and beverages that feel too cold or too hot. Over 12% of Americans have had this experience, sometimes briefly, others have this reaction for long periods. The good news is that there are many ways to avoid or treat it.
You should immediately have a full dental examination because the causes of sensitivity are quite varied. If your gums are receding (usually due to inadequate removal of the filmy plaque when brushing and flossing), this can expose nerves. In the long run, gum recession can lead to loss of teeth, eventually requiring them to be replaced with dental implants or bridges, since otherwise other teeth will start to move around, risking more than will fall out or need to be extracted (dentures, however, do not stop misalignment). In some cases, a gum graft may be needed.
Another common reason for sensitivity is simply using a toothbrush whose bristles are too stiff or that you use in an overly aggressive manner. Be sure you have one that is labeled soft or medium and be more gentle in your brushing technique.
Some toothpastes, such as those with charcoal, have abrasives that may be too harsh for your teeth and gums. Try one that touts its ingredients as having desensitizing properties. Some mouthwashes are also too strong.
Some over-the-counter whitening products may also be too harsh, so consult with us about how our process, which uses a special gel and a light that causes oxygen to release, can remove 6-10 shades in one sitting. We can also provide a home whitening kit that takes more time, but is gentle.
When you are in our office, you should also have your teeth examined for chips and cracks, which can result in teeth being sensitive because these expose nerves.
Another common cause of sensitivity is cavities or worn-down fillings. When the surface enamel is penetrated, infections can reach the underlying dentin, which has a direct connection to the inner pulp, which is filled with nerves. Dental caries, as cavities are technically called, need to be removed and filled and old fillings replaced.
Tooth enamel can be reduced if you grind your teeth at night. We can provide a customized mouth guard to wear for protection, similar to what athletes wear. Damaged teeth can be covered with dental crowns.
Acidic foods and acid reflux can be bad for enamel, so those with sensitive teeth need to be careful with their diets and have the reason for the reflux diagnosed and treated.
Saliva is a good bacteria fighter, but alcohol dries the mouth, encouraging bacteria to breed. Any drink with a high sugar content is a favorite food for bacteria, so it is important to swish water around the mouth afterwards.