If you’re experiencing recurring or sudden sharp pain when drinking hot beverages or eating frozen treats, or while brushing and flossing, then sensitive teeth may be to blame. Tooth pain can occur for many different reasons, and some are easier to pinpoint than others. You may be brushing your teeth too vigorously, thus damaging the enamel, or you could have a more serious oral health issue, such as gum disease. Your dental hygienist can diagnose the reason for tooth sensitivity and help treat the root cause, but identification and prevention also begin at home.
Symptoms and Causes of Sensitive Teeth
The symptoms of tooth sensitivity can manifest in different ways depending on the individual. Generally, pain in the teeth and gums, especially while eating and after dental treatment, including routine cleaning, is the prime indicator of tooth and gum sensitivity. Causes of oral pain also vary widely but include the following:
• A cracked or chipped tooth
• Tooth decay
• Worn tooth enamel
• Periodontal disease
• Receding gums
• Exposed tooth roots
Correctly identifying the cause of tooth pain is essential to proper treatment and improved oral health.
At-Home Treatment of Sensitive Teeth
Proper oral hygiene is the key to both a great smile and a healthy mouth, and you may be surprised to find that you haven’t been caring for your teeth properly, leading to sensitivity. Make sure to continue your twice-daily brushing routine, but reduce pressure when you brush and consider using a brush with soft bristles. You should also avoid brushing directly after eating foods with high acidity, like tomatoes and citrus fruit, because acidic foods weaken tooth enamel.
Desensitizing toothpaste is often the first line of defense when you’re dealing with tooth sensitivity. Available over the counter, many people find relief after using this type of toothpaste as part of their oral hygiene regimen. While brands vary, active ingredients in desensitizing paste typically include nerve-blocking agents, such as strontium chloride and/or potassium nitrate. Some patients report better results when the active ingredient is stannous fluoride, but desensitizing toothpaste containing it is available only by prescription.
In-Office Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity
If you can’t find relief from tooth pain by utilizing at-home methods, then a visit to your dentist may be in order. Your dental hygienist may use a fluoride gel treatment to help reduce sensitivity and improve your smile. Dependence on the reason for your tooth pain and its severity, your dentist might recommend a more invasive treatment option. Many in-office treatments, including those that combat sensitivity, are covered by your dental insurance. These treatments may include:
• Fillings or crowns
• A root canal
• Inlay or bonding
After treating your tooth sensitivity issue, your dentist will likely schedule a follow-up visit within a month to make sure the treatment is working and to check for additional issues that may be negatively impacting your smile. Make sure to follow instructions from your hygienist regarding proper oral health care after treatment to avoid a recurrence of tooth pain.