Ever bite into a big scoop of ice cream, and instead of tasting a delicious treat, you feel pain? You may have sensitive teeth. It’s a pretty common problem that’s often triggered by hot or cold foods and drinks, or by breathing cold air. If you’ve got sensitive teeth, you can blame dentin, the tissue that makes up the core of each tooth. A protective coating of enamel covers dentin. But when the enamel wears away or decays, the dentin becomes exposed – and you may feel pain.
Gum disease can also be a factor. Gum tissues can separate from teeth and form pockets that house bacteria that erode enamel. Gum disease also can result in the exposure of root surfaces, contributing to tooth sensitivity.
What You Can Do
Good oral hygiene is the best defense in preventing tooth decay, gum disease and pain from sensitive teeth. So brush your teeth, gently! If you’re too aggressive, you can injure your gums and expose tooth roots.
Avoid highly acidic foods and drinks in excess (citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles, tea) – they can wear away enamel over time.
Limit your whitening toothpastes and bleaching treatments. They can increase tooth sensitivity.
Go to the dentist regularly. Your dentist can detect and treat problems early. If your sensitivity is caused by clenching or grinding, you dentist may recommend a mouthguard.
Purchase a desensitizing toothpaste or mouth rinse for use in the home. Dentists also can apply desensitizing agents or protective sealants in their office.
If gum tissue has been lost from the root (gum recession), your dentist may recommend a surgical gum graft to cover the root, protect the tooth, and reduce the sensitivity, or a filling to eliminate the problem.
Learn more about tooth sensitivity and what you can do about it.