When it comes to your mouth, two of the main cogs in the engine are the gums and teeth. It's easy to take the necessary functions they perform for granted – that is, until your mouth is in pain. Whether you have sensitive gums or sensitive teeth, either is a recipe for oral discomfort. Here are the differences between the two and some ways to alleviate the pain.
Gum sensitivity is exactly what it sounds like – some form of irritation originating from the gums. If you think your gums are sensitive, look for some very specific symptoms to be sure: Gum sensitivity can result from gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease. Some of the signs of gingivitis are swollen and tender gums, those that easily bleed and elicit bad breath, according to the American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site. As gingivitis progresses into advanced gum disease, receding gums is another condition to watch for.
Gum sensitivity resulting from gingivitis or periodontal disease is typically caused by poor oral hygiene. Plaque is the main culprit of this sensitivity as it builds up along the gumline and, if left untreated, can progress to advanced gum disease. Additional causes include diabetes, tobacco use, crooked teeth and even pregnancy.
Tooth sensitivity has a few common symptoms of its own. You may find yourself wincing when brushing or flossing certain teeth, tooth pain when eating or drinking something cold or even the same feeling when consuming something hot, acidic or sweet.
Tooth sensitivity has many smaller dental causes, some of which are similar to gum pain, as observed by the ADA: cavities and tooth fractures, receding gums, worn tooth enamel, exposed tooth dentin, loose fillings and, lastly, gum disease. Grinding your teeth, or brushing them with too much force, are two additional actions that create sensitivity in your teeth. The overuse of mouthwash or even a cracked tooth may also expose nerves that yield irritation, according to Beth W. Orenstein of Everyday Health.
Treatment and Prevention
Though both gum and tooth sensitivity can lead to serious mouth health issues, each are very treatable and preventable. The best way to avoid sensitive gums, sensitive teeth and any issues stemming from either is by practicing and maintaining good oral health. This starts with using a toothpaste such as Colgate Total® Clean Mint, whose many benefits include preventing plaque and gingivitis – two culprits that can lead to sensitive gums. Flossing and maintaining a nutritious diet also aid in keeping your gums healthy.
Sensitive teeth can be treated by using a desensitizing toothpaste and fluoride gel. Other options may include bonding, gum grafting and a root canal, if recommended by your dentist. And as always, if either issue persists, consult your dentist for an oral examination.