Why Are My Teeth So Sensitive?
After a long, hot run or day on the beach, you want nothing more than an ice-cold drink. You pull a chilled bottle from the fridge, chug it down — and wince.
Certain foods and beverages can cause pain, and sometimes even a burst of cold air can make your mouth hurt. You might even find yourself avoiding drinks you enjoy, wondering, “Why are my teeth so sensitive?”
If you experience tooth twinges when enjoying cold beverages and sweet foods, you’re probably suffering from sensitive teeth pain. You don’t have to stop sipping your favorite milkshakes — there are other ways to care for your teeth to avoid sensitivity.
Here’s what you need to know about sensitive teeth causes and how to control them.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Tooth sensitivity is tooth pain that occurs as a response to stimuli. You may experience tooth sensitivity for a few hours or a few weeks, depending on the cause of your pain. This may involve sensitivity in one or many of your teeth.
The exposed part of your tooth is called the enamel. When enamel wears away, your nerve endings are exposed to everything your teeth come in contact with.
Some common causes of tooth sensitivity are:
- Regular consumption of acidic foods and beverages.
- Grinding your teeth in your sleep.
- Gum recession.
- Brushing too hard, wearing down your enamel.
- Sugary snacks.
- Extremely cold beverages
- Exposure to cold air.
You’ll learn more about the different causes of tooth sensitivity later in this post.
If you’re experiencing severe or chronic tooth sensitivity, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist. They will examine your teeth and symptoms, then recommend at-home or in-office treatment remedies for your sensitive teeth.
Other Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
As mentioned, there are many causes of tooth sensitivity. Your teeth may be sensitive due to a recent medical treatment — like fillings or wisdom teeth removal — or cosmetic procedures, such as teeth whitening.
Some reasons as to why your teeth are so sensitive may be:
1. Tooth Sensitivity After a Filling
A filling is a dental procedure where your dentist removes any tooth decay and fills the space with layered materials, hence the name “filling.” The procedure itself is relatively painless as your dentist will use a local anesthetic to numb the area around the tooth. You may experience tooth sensitivity as the anesthetic wears off, however.
The discomfort typically lasts a few days to a week. Typical symptoms are tooth sensitivity to cold food, drinks and cool air. If you experience severe pain, fever, redness or swelling, contact your dentist for treatment.
2. Tooth Sensitivity After a Cleaning
Regular cleanings are an essential part of a good oral hygiene routine. Although you won’t always experience tooth sensitivity after a cleaning, it isn’t uncommon to feel mild discomfort in the hours or days following your appointment.
During cleanings, hygienists perform scaling or root planning — the gentle clearing of debris that has built up between the tooth and soft tissues surrounding the tooth. This helps with healthy future gum attachment to the tooth instead of debris. This may cause gum sensitivity that can up to two weeks. You may experience sensitivity after the detailed brushing and medical-grade cleaning agents, too.
3. Tooth Sensitivity After a Crown
During a crown procedure, your dentist carefully removes small amounts of enamel. After filing down your tooth, your dentist places the protective crown, but it may take a while for your tooth to adjust the new addition. These symptoms usually last for a few days but gradually subside as your tooth adjusts to the crown.
4. Tooth Sensitivity After Wisdom Tooth Removal
Wisdom teeth don’t always grow the way dentists want them to. Sometimes, if you do not have enough room for them to grow in properly, they can grow at angles that adversely effect adjacent teeth. In some cases, the wisdom teeth don’t fully come out of the tissues. As much as you brush and floss, it becomes nearly impossible to clean the pockets around the tooth but underneath the gums.
If your dentist recommends wisdom tooth removal to help keep your gums and adjacent teeth healthy, you may notice sensitivity of these adjacent teeth while the extraction site is healing. This is because the gums have to fill in the area where the wisdom tooth was and the back of the adjacent tooth is more exposed.Tooth sensitivity may take a few weeks to dissipate completely. While you’re healing, make sure to keep your gauze clean, rinse with salt water to help avoid infection and practice proper oral hygiene. Practicing these measures will result in faster healing time.
5. Tooth Sensitivity After Whitening
You may experience tooth sensitivity during at-home or professional teeth whitening treatments. The whitening agent can enter microscopic channels on your enamel layer, penetrating the more sensitive deeper layer. The main symptoms are tooth sensitivity to temperature changes. These symptoms will likely go away within a day or two after the procedure.
5 Tips for Avoiding Sensitive Tooth Pain at Home
Depending on the cause and severity of your tooth pain, you can control and treat your sensitive tooth symptoms in various ways. Some mild ways of preventing pain and protecting your teeth include:
1. Brush Your Teeth More Gently
Many people think the harder they brush, the cleaner their teeth will be. But, by brushing your teeth too hard, you can actually wear out your protective enamel and cause gum recession. Wearing out your enamel exposes your dentin layer and nerve endings, resulting in higher teeth sensitivity. Try easing up the pressure and using softer strokes.
2. Avoid Acidic Foods and Drinks
Some foods and drinks are more prone to causing tooth sensitivity than others. Acidic foods and drinks erode your enamel and make your teeth more sensitive.
Examples of acidic foods and drinks to avoid are:
- Carbonated drinks
3. Stop Bleach Treatment Temporarily
Continued dental whitening may be the cause of your hypersensitivity. If you’re practicing at-home treatments, consider stopping for a week or two as your sensitivity subsides. If you’re receiving professional whitening from your dentist, let them know if you’re having sensitivity either during the procedure or after as they can use or recommend in office relief gels.
4. Unclench Your Teeth
People who experience elevated stress are more likely to grind their teeth. Grinding your teeth can wear your enamel and expose the more sensitive layers of your teeth. Avoid clenching and grinding your teeth by identifying the stressors in your life, breaking the habit, or consider asking your dentist about a protective night guard.
5. Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
There are many different kinds of toothpaste. Dental brands make flavored toothpaste, whitening toothpaste, toothpaste for kids — and toothpaste for sensitive teeth! Toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help block tiny channels in the more sensitive layers of your teeth which gives you more protection from changes in temperature.
7 Tooth Sensitivity Treatments
You have other professional treatment options aside from at-home alternatives. Consider these seven sensitive tooth treatments to resolve your tooth sensitivity:
1. Desensitizing Pastes
Along with toothpaste for sensitive teeth are desensitizing pastes, following a similar concept to regular toothpaste above. These pastes are often a lot stronger than the toothpaste option.
2. Fill Exposed Roots
Exposed roots may be the cause of your tooth sensitivity. The most common cause of exposed roots is receding gums, where the gumline lowers and exposes more of the root. Other causes of exposed roots are:
- Aggressive brushing.
- Tobacco use.
- Tooth grinding.
- Misaligned teeth.
Symptoms of an exposed root are tender gums, bleeding when brushing, longer-looking teeth, swelling and pain, tooth discoloration and tooth sensitivity.
You have a few treatment options to resolve your exposed roots. These options include getting a crown, filling exposed root surface, or gum grafts. Dental scaling procedures and mouthguards can help with prevention and stop progression. Talk with your dentist about the best way to treat your exposed roots.
3. Gum Grafts
As mentioned, gum recession can expose tooth roots, resulting in higher tooth sensitivity. Gum grafts are procedures that aim to resolve the effects of gum recession. Some people receive gum grafts for cosmetic purposes, too.
Sealants may be used in the deep pits and fissures of your teeth. This adds a layer of protection so debris does not get trapped and stay in the deep grooves. Your dentist may recommend sealants to stop or prevent damage to your teeth, which may be causing your tooth sensitivity.
Teeth are strong because of the mineral content within the tooth structure Minerals are lost when acid attacks the enamel – this is called demineralization. Minerals can replenish to some extent by contact with mineral-rich substances, like fluoride or certain foods, called remineralization.
If your teeth undergo more demineralization, your enamel layer weakens, making you more prone to tooth sensitivity. Fluoride is a good solution to remineralize your enamel. Find fluoride treatments, like fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinses, over-the-counter at your local convenience store.
6. Fluoride Varnish and Gels
Stronger than over-the-counter fluoride treatments, fluoride varnish and gels are professional grade, meaning your dentist or hygienist applies the treatment. This treatment works as a great preventative measure for tooth sensitivity and stops tooth sensitivity from progressing.
Your dentist or hygienist applies a gentle fluoride varnish or gel to your teeth using a small brush. It’s a sticky gel, which hardens once it contacts your saliva. It’s as simple as that!
Mouthguards provide a barrier overtop of your teeth and are especially helpful for people who clench and grind their teeth together. They can help cushion your bite and help prevent you from wearing away tooth structure. Instead of grinding your teeth and damaging your enamel, you will safely grind against protective material.
Resolve Sensitive Teeth Pain — Book an Appointment at Dental Choice
Are you experiencing tooth sensitivity? Tooth sensitivity occurs for many reasons, and pinpointing the source can be hard to do alone. If you’re looking for treatment for sensitive teeth pain, Dental Choice may be able to help.
We can evaluate your symptoms and recommend an over-the-counter or in-office treatment to resolve your discomfort. Dental Choice offers emergency dental care as well as preventive and restorative treatment for almost all cases of tooth sensitivity.
This content was reviewed by Dr. Kristen Kezar from our University Edmonton location.