What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

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Do your teeth hurt when you draw in a breath of cold air, or when you sip a hot drink? If so, you are not alone. You may be experiencing the effects of tooth sensitivity, one of the most common dental conditions we see in our practice.

Beneath your enamel, there are tiny tubes in the tissue of the dentin which carry fluid to the nerves. When the fluid moves within the tubes, you can experience irritation in the nerves. Normally your dentin is protected by the hard layer of enamel on top, but if you have gums that have receded, or your enamel has worn down, this can allow the tubules to be exposed.

Once your tubules are exposed, you can experience pain from eating or drinking cold or hot foods, touching your teeth, or exposing your teeth to cold air. 

What you can do for Sensitive Teeth

Change your brand of toothpaste. Some kinds of toothpaste increase tooth sensitivity, including whitening toothpaste that lightens or removes stains from enamel, and tartar-control toothpastes containing sodium pyrophosphate. There are toothpastes designed for people with sensitive teeth. Be aware that these products typically must be used on a regular basis for at least a month before you notice any therapeutic benefits.

Brush lightly. Avoid using hard-bristled toothbrushes and brushing your teeth too vigorously, which can wear down the tooth’s root surface and expose sensitive spots. Take a good look at your toothbrush. If the bristles are flattened or pointing in multiple directions, you’re putting too much pressure on your teeth.
Avoid Acidic Food. Some foods or drinks can aggravate sensitive teeth. Avoid or limit acidic items (for example, food or drink with a high concentration of tomatoes, oranges, or lemons).

When should I see a dentist?

If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days and reacts to both hot and cold temperatures, it’s best to ask your dentist to take a closer look. Sometimes sensitivity may actually be a sign of a cavity or infected tooth pulp. Be sure to tell the dentist when the pain started and if there is anything (such as applying a warm compress) that gives you relief from the pain.

If you are diagnosed with sensitive teeth, your dentist can prescribe one of a variety of treatment options, such as in-office treatments (applying a desensitizing agent or a protective coating to the teeth) and take-home products for personal use. If your tooth sensitivity is severe and persistent or it cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend root canal treatment.

If you are experiencing sensitive teeth, visit our Kennewick dentist office to have your teeth examined. At Tri-city Dental Care we can examine you and determine whether they are sensitive due to simple irritation or if there is a greater oral health concern. You can schedule an appointment with our office by calling 509.579.0759