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What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is a common problem in dentistry. It can be uncomfortable and frustrating, making it difficult to eat or drink hot or cold foods or beverages, or even food items that are very sweet. Minor sensitivity can be treated with special toothpaste, while more severe sensitivity might require a trip to the dental office.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity results when the dentin of the teeth, normally protected by the tooth’s enamel layers or by the gums, is exposed. The dentin transmits the stimulus of hot, cold, sweet or sour directly to the tooth nerves, resulting in discomfort. Some causes of tooth sensitivity include:

  • Aggressive brushing that wears down the enamel
  • Gum disease
  • Gums pull away from the tooth root
  • Aging
  • Too much acid in the diet
  • Damage to the tooth
  • Habitual tooth grinding (bruxism)

A recent injury to the tooth or recent dental work, such as a placement of a crown or a filling, can also cause temporary sensitivity. In these cases, sensitivity usually disappears within a few weeks.

Preventing and Treating Tooth Sensitivity

Regular care and dental visits help reduce the likelihood of tooth sensitivity. Using a soft toothbrush and avoiding highly acidic foods can also help teeth retain normal sensitivity.

If teeth begin to exhibit symptoms, switching to a toothpaste specifically for sensitive teeth can help, often eliminating the symptoms before they become severe. Fluoride toothpaste and professional fluoride treatments also help prevent symptoms and to reduce symptoms when they occur.

If symptoms become severe, a dentist can provide sealants or more extensive fluoride treatment to protect the area. Dental bonding or porcelain fillings might also provide a long-term solution to severe tooth sensitivity, especially if the tooth roots are exposed.

To find out what solutions might be most effective for an individual with sensitive teeth, please contact our Plano dental office for a consultation or appointment.

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