Sensitive Teeth – Causes, Types and Treatment

No one should have to choose between their smile being beautiful or comfortable. If you’ve ever experienced pain or discomfort in your teeth in response to certain stimuli, you may be suffering from tooth sensitivity. At Busk Family Dentistry, our expert team is committed to giving you exceptional dental care with the results you want. To help you out, let’s take a look at the causes, types, and treatment for sensitive teeth!

What is tooth sensitivity?

Also known as “dentin hypersensitivity,” tooth sensitivity is exactly what it sounds like: pain or discomfort in the teeth as a response to certain stimuli, such as hot or cold temperatures. Common triggers for tooth sensitivity include:

  • Hot or cold food and beverages
  • Sweet or acidic food and beverages
  • Cold water (Especially during routine dental cleanings)
  • Brushing or flossing teeth
  • Alcohol-based mouth rinses

The pain that comes with sensitive teeth is usually sharp, sudden, and shooting. This sensitivity usually occurs when the tooth’s enamel wears down, exposing the dentin below, or the layer covering the root- the cementum, becomes exposed along the gum line due to receding gums. Regularly consuming acidic foods and beverages can contribute to the breakdown of your tooth’s enamel leading to a prolonged experience with sensitive teeth. Other causes of sensitive teeth include:

  • Dental Work—Your teeth may be sensitive following a dental procedure like fillings, crowns, or teeth whitening. In these cases, the pain you experience will typically be localized to the tooth that received dental work and possibly the teeth immediately surrounding that tooth.
  • Tooth Damage—Tooth decay, broken teeth, chipped teeth, and worn-down fillings or crowns can leave the tooth’s dentin exposed, thus causing sensitivity. 
  • Overzealous Brushing—Brushing your teeth with too much force, with a hard-bristle or abrasive toothbrush may wear down tooth enamel and expose the vulnerable layers that trigger pain. 
  • Other Health Conditions—Sometimes, other conditions can lead to tooth sensitivity. Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can cause acid to come up from the stomach and esophagus and may wear down teeth over time. Conditions that cause frequent vomiting,  including gastroparesis and bulimia, can cause acid to wear down the enamel.
Sensitive Teeth - Causes, Types and Treatment

The Different Types of Tooth Sensitivity

There is no one-way tooth sensitivity can present in each person. There can be many causes, and each of those causes can show up in different ways. 

Hot, Cold, Sweet, and Sour

Experiencing pain when consuming hot, cold, sweet, or sour food or drinks is the most common experience. It usually means that the enamel in that area is worn wherever the sensitivity occurs, and the dentin and nerve within the tooth are exposed. This sensitivity will be sudden but usually only lasts while the teeth are exposed to the stimulant and then subsides.

Acute Pain when Chewing or Biting Down

Your tooth sensitivity may present when biting down and chewing on food. This type of sharp stabbing pain may mean you have a chipped or fractured tooth moving against your tooth pulp and nerve. This ache is similar to a loose filling or tooth decay. 

Constant Strong Pain and Swelling

If your tooth pulp becomes infected or an abscess spreads into the surrounding periodontal tissue, you may experience constant strong pain and swelling in the teeth and gums in that area. This sensitivity will become more pronounced with touch and swell with infection.

Dull Ache in Upper Teeth and Sinus Pressure

The sinus area shares the same nerves as your upper teeth, making the source of your discomfort more challenging to identify. This means that upper tooth pain or sensitivity may result from sinus congestion that is common with a cold or flu. Another common cause of a dull sensitivity in your upper or back teeth could be tooth grinding and clenching or bruxism

Post-Dental Treatment

Dental treatment can irritate tooth pulp tissue, and teeth whitening treatment penetrates your tooth’s enamel resulting in temporary sensitivity for a couple of hours after leaving your dental office. This pain will correspond to the tooth or area in your mouth that received treatment but should not affect other parts of your mouth.

How To Treat Tooth Sensitivity

Lucky for you, tooth sensitivity can be treated. Your individual treatment will depend on what is causing your sensitivity but Busk Family Dentistry offers a full range of treatments. Here are some ways we can help with sensitivity.

  • Desensitizing toothpaste– This toothpaste contains compounds that help block the transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve.
  • Fluoride gel– This treatment strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the aching sensations after being applied during your dental visit. 
  • Tooth repair– A crown, inlay, or bonding may be used to correct a flaw or decay by covering the dentin and pulp for protection from stimulants and debris. 
  • Surgical gum graft– If gum tissue has been lost from the root, this will insulate and protect the root and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root Canal– This treatment cleans and removes the infected pulp and nerve causing the sensitivity.

The ideal way to handle sensitive teeth is to take measures to prevent and reduce tooth sensitivity. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks
  • Clean all parts of your mouth, including between your teeth and your gum line 
  • Brush and floss your teeth twice a day to ward off gum loss
  • Use an enamel-protecting toothpaste
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush

Many patients will need more than one type of treatment to get long-term relief from sensitive teeth. Our well-trained team will discuss these treatments as they apply to your specific situation to determine which will work best for you.

Sensitive Teeth - Causes, Types and Treatment

Keep your smile bright at Busk Family Dentistry

Your smile deserves to be both beautiful and comfortable, so you need an orthodontic team who knows how to help you shine. The expert team here at Busk Family Dentistry in Washington can help enhance your smile and restore your confidence with dental implants or partial dentures, so get in touch today to find out more.