Wincing when you Smile: Sensitive Teeth

Wincing when you Smile: Sensitive Teeth

When sensitive teeth leaving you wincing

Is the feel of a cold drink, ice-cream or even hot soup a painful experience? Even occasionally? If brushing and flossing make you squirm, or breathing in crisp morning air, you may be suffering from hyper sensitive teeth.  Sometimes even sour and sweet things can set off an uncomfortable sensation. When this happens there are a variety of issues that your dentist can help you resolve in order to be able to enjoy foods and activities like you once did.

Possible causes include:

Hot and cold things, sweet and sour or even the feel of flossing and brushing can be excruciating if you have sensitive teeth

Hot and cold things, sweet and sour or even the feel of flossing and brushing can be excruciating if you have sensitive teeth

  • Decay. Cavities can allow nerves inside the tooth to be exposed to the extremes of hot and cold.
  • Fractured teeth. Broken teeth can obviously expose the tooth’s nerve to stimulus, but even cracks and fissures in the enamel can weaken a tooths protection from environmental extremes and stimulation.
  • Worn-out fillings.  It may be news to some patients but fillings often need, periodic, and routine replacement.
  • Gum Disease. Gingivitis and periodontal disease can stress the tooths delicate nerve making it more prone to becoming sensitive, also as diseased gums receded due to inflammation, infection and bacterial toxins the root of the tooth becomes more exposed, further reducing natural protection from soft tissues.
  • Worn enamel.  Enamel wears as we age, the thinner the enamel the easier it becomes for the cold and heat to travel through the porous dentin and enamel.
  • Exposed tooth root.  The roots of our teeth are intended to be covered and protected by gum tissue. Injuries, gum disease, harsh brushing and flossing practices can all affect gum health.

The common thread in tooth hypersensitivity

In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel goes over the portion of tooth above the gumline, protecting the sensitive parts inside teeth.  Below the gum line another protective layer–called cementum–protects the lower half of the tooth. When these layers are compromised the dentin inside the tooth may be the only barrier between the nerve and outside stimulus.

Sensitive teeth can be treated

The type of treatment will depend on the cause of the sensitivity and the recommendations your doctor thinks will help most

Some patients can alleviate symptoms with desensitizing toothpaste and remineralization efforts. Other recommended treatments may require procedures to bond or overlay the affected tooth or a portion of the tooth, including replacing old fillings.  Other patients may need surgical measures to restore soft tissue and the gum line.

Prevention is key

Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing hypersensitive teeth and pain associated with decay, gum disease, worn enamel and loose or worn fillings.


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