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Sensitive teeth need extra care

Do you notice a little sting in your teeth or when you eat cold foods like ice cream or try to enjoy a hot cup of coffee or tea?

If so, it’s time to schedule a trip to the dentist to rule out causes like a cavity or a cracked tooth. For many, the problem may be tooth sensitivity —a very common condition that can be caused by a variety of factors. Sensitivity can range from an occasional sting to frequent pain.

As we age, receding gums (gums that move away from teeth) or tooth enamel that has worn too thin exposes root surfaces of teeth, can cause tooth sensitivity.

Other possible causes include brushing too hard and wearing down enamel; developing gum disease (gingivitis) temporarily irritating teeth with whitening products; grinding or clenching; eating acidic foods or using acidic mouthwashes; or experiencing temporary sensitivity following routine dental procedures.

Consult with your dentist for the best way to treat your sensitive teeth. He or she will begin by ruling out or treating serious dental problems. Your dentist can determine whether you need a professionally applied fluoride gel, desensitizing paste or a dental sealant to strengthen enamel and reduce sensitivity and can also recommend a desensitizing toothpaste that helps block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve with regular use.

If you have gingivitis or your enamel is wearing thin because you’re brushing too hard, your dentist can also review proper oral hygiene techniques with you to protect your teeth and reduce sensitivity. If you are grinding or clenching, your dentist may recommend wearing a mouth guard at night and avoiding stress. He or she may also recommend reducing the amount of acidic foods in your diet.

Visit ADA.org for more details on the causes of sensitive teeth and treatment options.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

12/21/2010

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