Tooth sensitivity: 7 reasons why you have sensitive teeth
Teeth sensitivity is no laughing matter. It can signal problematic underlying issues and leave your mouth in a world of pain and discomfort. Not to mention rob you life’s simple pleasures such as enjoying your morning flat white or evening dessert.
To prevent against tooth sensitivity, it’s important to understand what could be triggering your discomfort and address the root cause (of the problem, that is).
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Find out how your daily routine, diet and other common factors might be sending you straight on down to sensitivity town.
Why do I have tooth sensitivity?
The discomfort we associate with sensitive teeth - sharp, shooting pains that worsen with pressure - points to exposed dentine, which are the inner layers of our teeth.
When we have exposed dentine or tooth roots, eating certain foods and drinks - particularly hot and cold ones - can result in a sudden onset of pain.
If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, there are a number of factors that could be behind your symptoms. From daily diet and lifestyle choices, pregnancy, and a recent trip to the dentist, to more serious dental problems that demand a consultation, find out how you can take measures to protect and repair your teeth.
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What is causing my tooth sensitivity?
In all instances, we recommend that you speak with a professional for a proper diagnosis. But if you’re strapped on time or curious as to what factors might be behind your bothersome tooth sensitivity, explore the common causes below:
1. A diet high in sugar
Is your sweet tooth behind your sensitive teeth? Sugar feeds the millions of bacteria that live inside plaque - the soft, sticky film that builds up on your teeth. (You’re running your tongue over your teeth right now, aren’t you?). Bacteria in plaque produce acids that break down tooth structure making it more susceptible to that stops-you-in-your-tracks kind of pain you experience when you tuck into an ice-cream or sink your teeth into that hot, fresh muffin.
2. A highly-acidic diet
If you’re a sucker for sour foods or punchy, vibrant flavours, chances are your diet is pretty heavy on the acid; a palate that will strip back the enamel on your teeth and make you more prone to sensitivity. So, what does a highly-acidic diet look like? Well, it includes frequent foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, grains, pickles, orange juice, coffee, sports drinks, wine (yes, wine), and carbonated sodas.
3. Aggressive brushing
Do you regularly wear your toothbrush bristles flat? If so, you’re likely brushing your teeth too hard and wearing down the enamel on your teeth and root cementum (a specialised calcified substance covering the root of a tooth). Over-brushing not only damages your gnashers, but it can also lead to gum recession exposing your softer areas of your teeth which - you guessed it - can lead to sensitivity and pain.
4. Receding gums or gum disease
Recessive gums expose dentin tubules which lead to sensitive nerve branches inside of your teeth. Recessive gums can crop up for a number of reasons (brushing too hard or something more serious). If this sounds familiar, be sure to see a professional to double-check you don’t have any underlying issues such as cavities, worn fillings, cracks or chips, or gum disease.
5. Tooth grinding
It says it in the name, really. But the trouble is unless we have attentive people in our lives checking in on our every move, we don’t know we do it. Teeth grinding (aka bruxism) has very subtle symptoms. It’s one of the ways our bodies respond to stress. If you wake up with a sore, painful jaw or report headaches, your nightly grinding could be behind your teeth sensitivity.
6. A recent trip to the dentist
Sensitive teeth can be a temporary side effect of common dental procedures. Teeth whitening (DIY or otherwise), fillings and root canals can make you more sensitive to hot and cold foods, air temperature, and the pressure of chewing and biting. This sensitivity is typically short-term and should subside in a few weeks.
For many expectant mothers, hormone changes, which can affect how our body responds to bacteria in plaque, and increased blood flow both lead to sensitive, swollen gums that are tender to the touch. Suddenly, hot and cold food and drinks become a trigger for sensitivity pain, even if you’ve never experienced sensitivity before. The joys!
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How do you stop teeth sensitivity pain?
Maintaining a healthy oral hygiene routine is the single most important step to alleviating sensitive tooth pain -- and preventing it in the future. That means being vigilant about brushing, flossing and rinsing twice daily using a fluoride toothpaste to strengthen and protect your body’s only supply of tooth enamel.
A sensitive toothpaste will work hard to repair your tooth enamel whilst relieving pain. You can also spread this toothpaste along the exposed tooth roots or dentin areas before bed using your fingertip to tackle the exposed areas head on.
Some useful tips for preventing sensitive teeth:
Opt for a soft-bristled toothbrush and soft floss
Use a sensitive toothpaste
Maintain proper oral hygiene routine and stick to it
Avoid acidic, sugary and chilled/piping hot foods and drinks
Book a check up with your local dentist
Maintaining a flawless routine twice daily using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth is a solid idea to treat the pain. But if that pain is severe, recurring, or it persists even after weeks of taking the above precautions, then you need to head to the dentist.
What do you find helps with tooth sensitivity?
Words: Terri Dunn