Sensitive teeth is an oral condition that is characterized by toothache, sharp pain when the root of the tooth is exposed to cold and hot foods, or sweets and acidic foods or cold air.
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Sensitivity comes and goes over time, it can occur in one tooth or more teeth at the same time and, it can be temporarily or a chronic condition.
In a healthy situation, teeth are protected by enamel, when enamel wear out it exposes the area underneath called ‘cementum’. The area below cementum is called ‘dentin’ consists of tubes connecting to nerves. Now when cementum wears out, it exposes the dentin that allows the stimuli to reach the nerves endings and cause pain.
What Causes Your Teeth to Be Sensitive
Sensitive teeth can be caused by:
- Over-brushing – electric toothbrushes come with a pressure sensor to alert you when brushing hard. But, if you are using a manual toothbrush with hard bristles, it is very easy to over brush causing tooth enamel to wear out exposing dentin that transfer stimuli easily to the nerves through its tiny tubes causing pain.
- Tooth grinding –clenching your teeth causes enamel to be destroyed making the teeth sensitive
- Dental cleaning or treatment –After professional teeth cleaning, your teeth will be temporarily sensitive however; the sensitivity will clear out within a few days.
- Gum recession – this cause gums to pull out from the teeth, exposing the teeth root which is highly sensitive to acidic, sweets, hot and cold foods.
- Cracked tooth – if the tooth crack up to the root, you will experience severe pain
- Cavities – If you experience sharper pain that is localized to one tooth and that occur without any obvious reason, might be a hole in that area that causes pain to transfer to the nerves and cause pain.
- Worn-out fillings exposing out the root of the tooth making it sensible to the external factors
- Acidic diet –cause erosion and dissolve the tooth surface
What to Do When Your Teeth Are Sensitive To Cold and Hot?
The first thing to do is to ask yourself what is the root cause of that sensitivity: has your tooth cracked, has tooth fillings worn out, have you have any dental cleaning or treatment, or do you have cavities?
If it is just a temporary pain due to recently done teeth whitening or any other dental cleaning and treatments. Then, you can tolerate it for a few days while using toothpaste for sensitive teeth such as Sensodyne toothpaste to reduce pain.
You can also use a brush-on fluoride gel or rinse to strengthen tooth enamel, protecting your teeth from decay while reducing pains.
Having a glass of water immediately after eating acidic food may also reduce pains to the affected area.
Another great way to stop the pain and curb the infection is through ‘oil pulling’, swishing oil for 20 minutes then spit it out and then rinse with warm salt water. Continue oil swishing even if the teeth are seriously paining, it works.
I tried oil pulling several months ago when my tooth cracked and couldn’t get a dentist’s appointment on time. I swished coconut oil for 20 minutes and the pain was kind of reducing and then come back, every time it came back I swish again the whole night in a different position: while sitting, walking, and bending. The pain was on and off and then stopped completely in the following day to date.
Apart from that brushing, flossing, mouth rinse and tongue cleaning daily will help prevent receding gums and periodontal disease from re-occurring.
If the cause of pain is due to cracked teeth, gum recession, periodontal gum disease or worn out fillings then, you need to consult your dentist for further checkup and treatment.
What Can A Dentist Do For Sensitive Teeth?
In the dentist office, your doctor will first examine the root cause of your pain, you might also be asked to go for x-ray to help check if there is any cavities. Treating without knowing the cause will make the pain to go but re-occur in the near future.
After examination, your doctor will recommend the best way to treat the pain. It can be:
- Fluoride gel- your dentist may apply fluoride gel or desensitizing pastes on the affected area to block the tubes that sends pains to the nerves.
- Fillings to cover exposed roots in case your dental fillings has worn out
- Sealants may also be applied to protect the area from pain causing substances
- Mouthguard – this will be offered to you if you have a grinding problem
- Surgical gum graft to fix receding gums – this involves taking tissues from nearby gums or the roof of your mouth and implants it on the receded gums.
- Root canals to treat infection in the dental pulp
- Bonding or crowns to fix tooth decay.
What Causes Teeth to Hurt When Eating Sweets?
What causes the teeth to hurt when eating sweets is the acid produced after eating those candies. As you already know in your mouth there are bacteria both good and bad ones. These viruses thrive more on starchy and sugary foods. In which upon eating they produce acid. It is the acid that destroys the enamel, and if you have cavities or your tooth roots are exposed due to gum recession or cracked teeth or worn out fillings, space allows acid to penetrate deep into the nerve endings causing pain.
Now since sweets have sugar and are sticky, when you eat them, they stick on the teeth providing a meal for the bacteria to thrive and produce acids which when coming into contact with your teeth it causes them to hurt. And another fact is that most of the sweets have acid added in their package; this also triggers the pain on the tooth root.
You can prevent pain from occurring by swishing your mouth with water after taking sweets and wait at least one hour before brushing. This is because the acid softens the teeth, brushing them immediately after eating cause the tooth enamel to wear out easily.
Finally, also avoid the tendency of snacking throughout the day because every time you eat, you are exposing teeth to acid.
Dr. Tom Bell has a PhD in Medical Anthropology. He has a keen interest in oral health topics and is the founder of dentalrave. He has been an oral health researcher and electric toothbrush enthusiast for over 10 years. When not talking about dental hygiene and gadgets, Tom likes spending time outdoors hiking.