Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

what causes sensitive teeth


Life is meant to be enjoyed – a huge part of that is eating the foods you enjoy, including ice cream, without any discomfort! However, you may have found that acidic or cold foods make your teeth sensitive. We can help you find solutions to minimize that sensitivity and help you enjoy that iced coffee again.

Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity:

  • Tooth Decay
  • Tooth Fractures
  • Gum Disease
  • Teeth Grinding
  • Enamel Erosion
  • Exposed Tooth Roots

When the protective enamel layer of the tooth is worn down, teeth become sensitive. If you also have recession of the gums, the protective layer of the root, the cementum, becomes exposed. Exposed cementum can be worn away by tooth brushing and acidic foods and beverages leading to sensitivity.

When the hard layers of enamel and cementum are worn away, the softer, less dense dentin is exposed. The dentin has microscopic tubules which conduct sensation to the nerve of the tooth. These tubules allow allow heat, cold, and sensations from sweet and sour foods to reach the nerves inside the tooth, causing discomfort.

 Common Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity: 

  • Desensitizing Toothpaste: These particular kinds of toothpaste utilize fluoride that shield tooth nerves from triggers, such as hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks. Some patients get adequate relief from over-the-counter sensitivity toothpaste; however, many others need a prescription grade toothpaste that we have in our office. For best results, allow these toothpastes to work for at least a few weeks.
  • Fluoride Treatment: Irritants cannot penetrate through strong enamel. Fluoride strengthens the enamel, creating a stronger protective layer. We recommend fluoride varnish treatments every 6 months for both children and adults. Not only does it soothe sensitive teeth, it also prevents cavities!
  • Dental Restoration: If the sensitivity is caused by cavities or fractures, the tooth will need either a filling or a crown depending on the extent of the damage. Dr. Ewell will examine the tooth and take any necessary diagnostic x-rays to determine the best options to restore health and stability to the tooth.
  • Gum Graft: Gum recession leaves the root surface exposed, causing sensitivity to hot and cold. While gums cannot grow back on their own, gum grafting can cover the exposed roots.
  • Root Canal: If the sensitivity is caused by deep decay to the nerve or a nerve that has died, Dr. Ewell will determine if the tooth needs a root canal.

Once enamel gets worn down, it will not come back! Taking precautionary measures to avoid wearing down the protective layers of the teeth is the best way to prevent tooth sensitivity. Using a soft-bristled toothbrush and only applying gentle pressure while brushing can preserve these precious protective layers.

If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is crucial to schedule an appointment with us at Dentistry of Arizona and we can evaluate the cause and discuss the best solution to providing relief. Give us a call at (623) 889-6000.

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