Tooth Sensitivity Explained: Causes, Treatments, Tips

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Tooth Sensitivity Explained: Causes, Treatments, Tips 

One in every eight Americans experiences tooth sensitivity, referred to in the dental field as dentinal hypersensitivity. Whether triggered by hot or cold foods, sweets, or even during brushing, sensitivity can take a toll on everyday life. In this blog, we will explore the causes of tooth sensitivity, effective strategies to alleviate discomfort, and guidance on when to seek professional dental advice. 

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity 

Tooth sensitivity is primarily caused by exposed dentin. Dentin is the hard tissue beneath the enamel, which contains microscopic tubules connecting to nerve endings. When enamel wears away due to factors, such as aggressive brushing, teeth grinding, gum recession, cavities, cracked or chipped teeth, and enamel erosion, external stimuli can reach the nerves, leading to tooth pain. Identifying the root causes of sensitivity is crucial for determining the right treatment course to alleviate discomfort and maintain good oral health. Through a comprehensive exam, your dentist can pinpoint the specific cause of your discomfort and design a treatment plan to provide relief.  


Treatments for Sensitive Teeth 

Desensitizing Toothpaste: Desensitizing toothpaste contains active ingredients, such as potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These components block nerve signals to reduce sensitivity when exposed to hot, cold, or sweet stimuli. Both over-the-counter and prescription options are available; consult your dentist to determine the best fit for your smile. 

Fluoride: Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral known for its ability to strengthen tooth enamel. Your dentist can apply fluoride to the sensitive areas of your teeth to fortify the enamel. To complement in-office treatments, your dental provider may recommend at-home fluoride treatments in the form of toothpaste, mouthwash, foam, or gel. 

Bonding: Since enamel only covers the crown of the tooth and does not extend under the gum line, patients with gum recession often experience sensitivity. Dental bonding can cover the exposed area to eliminate sensitivity in patients with mild to moderate cases of gum recession. Your dentist can apply this painless treatment in just one visit.  

Surgical Gum Graft: For those with advanced gum recession causing tooth sensitivity, a surgical gum graft is a viable solution. This procedure entails harvesting a small portion of gum tissue from the roof of the mouth and grafting it onto the exposed area. 

Root Canal: If less invasive treatments do not eliminate sensitivity, your dentist may recommend a root canal. In this procedure, your dentist removes the infected or damaged pulp inside the tooth and seals the canal to prevent further infection. Contrary to common belief, root canals are painless and highly effective in relieving tooth pain. 


When to Seek Professional Dental Care 

Tooth sensitivity can be painful and make everyday tasks, such as eating and drinking, extremely uncomfortable. We recommend scheduling an examination with your general dental provider if you experience tooth sensitivity frequently after consuming hot, cold, or sweet foods and beverages. Tooth sensitivity can indicate various underlying issues. Therefore, it is critical to address this symptom as soon as possible to help prevent a potential dental emergency in the future. 


Understanding the causes and treatment options for tooth sensitivity is the first step toward restoring a pain-free smile. If you are experiencing sensitivity, do not hesitate to reach out to your dentist for personalized advice and a comprehensive examination. Proactive dental care is the key to maintaining optimal oral health and function.  

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