What Causes Teeth Sensitivity And What You Can Do About It

For many, the jingle of the ice cream truck is the sound of summer. But it's no longer fun when you drop your ice cream cone and gasp in pain on your very first bite. If you can relate, you're one of many people with teeth sensitivity. Sensitive teeth are quite common, affecting 1 in 8 adults in the United States.

Also known as dentine hypersensitivity, it's also triggered by hot food and drink, sour fruits, and even the onset of colder temperatures.

Sensitivity starts when the protective enamel around the tooth wears down, exposing the layer of dentin underneath. The dentin layer is a very porous network of microscopic tubes that connect to nerve endings in the center of the tooth.

Exposing these sensitive nerves to changes in temperature causes them to react, resulting in that painful zing in your mouth.

According to the American Dental Association, around 40 million people in the U.S. suffer from varying degrees of tooth sensitivity. But what causes you to suddenly develop this sensitivity?  Board Certified Dentist Johnny L. Smith, DMD, located in Peoria, Arizona, outlines five common reasons for teeth sensitivity.

1. You consume a lot of acidic foods

Acid-rich foods and drinks can weaken the enamel, exposing the dentin. Acidic foods such as tomatoes, fruit juices, soft drinks, and soy sauce leave behind acid after consuming them. These acid deposits eat away at the enamel on your teeth.

What to do: Fix your diet and limit your intake of these items. If you consume them, rinse your mouth afterward and drink plenty of water to neutralize any acidity.

2. You have a buildup of plaque

Plaque is a bacterial film that builds up on your teeth. If you consume a diet high in sugar, you're also feeding these bacteria. They release an acidic byproduct that dissolves your enamel. With your enamel worn away, your dentine is exposed, leading to dentine hypersensitivity.

3. You're overusing tooth-whitening products

To get that Hollywood smile, many of our patients use tooth-whitening products. But at-home whitening solutions contain chemicals that weaken your enamel and trigger sensitivity.

What to do: Stop using them, and you'll find that the pain soon goes away. Consult Dr. Smith for appropriate products.

4. You're brushing your teeth too hard

Yes, you have to brush your teeth regularly to keep them clean and protect against cavities. But you may tend to brush way too hard. Brushing aggressively wears away at the hard enamel, causing the soft gums to recede. The exposed root structure is susceptible.

What to do: Invest in an electric toothbrush, eliminating the need to scrub your teeth. If you prefer a manual brush, buy one with extra-soft bristles. Stiff bristles can cut and wound your gums.

5. You grind your teeth

Many people grind and clench their teeth, consciously and sometimes in their sleep. This constant friction wears away the protective enamel of your teeth. Eventual exposure of the nerves leads to painful tooth sensitivity.

What to do: If you grind your teeth in your sleep, your dentist can make a custom mouthguard to wear while you sleep. This may help stop the constant wear-and-tear.

Don't let tooth sensitivity keep you away from your favorite foods and beverages. But always treat sensitive teeth as a warning sign.

Dr. Smith understands how frustrating it is when your teeth suddenly start to hurt. Don't delay. Call or book an appointment online for an appointment with Dr. Smith today. 

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