Friday, May 23, 2014

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity, and How Is It Treated?

Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints among dental patients, and approximately 40 million adults in the United States suffer at some point from sensitive teeth. So you are not alone if you get pain when you eat or drink certain foods and beverages.

Sensitivity is also aggravated by heat, cold such as ice cream or soft drinks, citrus fruits and juices, brushing, flossing, acid reflux and other factors that result in the erosion of the teeth's hard enamel. Exposed areas of the tooth that cause pain can even affect or change your drinking, eating and breathing habits.

Tooth sensitivity is caused by fluid movement within the exposed microscopic tubules located in the dentin, which is the layer of tissue underneath the hard enamel outer layer and contains the inner pulp, and that results in nerve irritation when the hard enamel has worn down, teeth are fractured or chipped, or the gums have receded and the items that cause pain come in contact with the nerves inside your teeth.

Visit your dentist for a diagnostic evaluation so he or she can rule out that the pain is being caused by a cavity or need for a root canal or a suggestion that fluoride or a protective coating be applied to the sensitive areas to strengthen the enamel and cover any exposed tooth roots. A mouth guard may be needed If you grind your teeth because tooth grinding (bruxism) can cause sensitivity and fracture teeth.

If you do not have those problems, your dentist may recommend one of the following:

1. Use a desensitizing toothpaste to help block the pain. After brushing, you might want to massage the special paste onto your gums with your finger. Don't be discouraged by the fact that this special toothpaste must be used on a regular basis twice a day for approximately a month before any therapeutic benefits are noticed.

2. Ingredients found in some tooth whitening toothpastes used to lighten and/or remove certain stains and the main ingredient in toothpastes for tartar control may increase sensitivity.

3. Floss daily with a comfortable floss designed especially for even the most sensitive gums. Brush your teeth twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush to remove up to 90 percent of plaque from even hard to reach areas while being gentle on gums. You should avoid harsh or vigorous scrubbing and highly abrasive toothpaste. A hard bristled toothbrush wears down the tooth's surface, exposes sensitive areas and can cause gum recession and root exposure. Are you guilty of brushing too hard? Find out by looking at your toothbrush. If the bristles are pointing in different directions, you are.

4. Avoid brushing immediately after eating or drinking acidic substances because the acid softens enamel and makes it more vulnerable to erosion during brushing.

5. Limit acidic foods such as citrus fruits and drinks, wine and others, all of which can gradually remove tooth enamel. If you drink acidic liquids, use a straw in order to limit contact with your teeth. After you eat or drink something acidic, drink a glass of water or milk in order to balance the acid levels.

Do you have a problem with tooth sensitivity? Give Shumway Dental Care and call and make an appointment to see one of their Chandler AZ dentists. Dr. Andy Shumway and his son Dr. Joel Shumway are experienced in all types of cosmetic dentistry, and can tell you the best route to take to get your teeth up to par. Visit the site at
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