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What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Have you ever taken a sip of hot coffee or savoured an ice cream and felt a sudden jolt of pain in your teeth? You may likely have sensitive teeth. While it is common and treatable, understanding tooth sensitivity, its symptoms and causes, and preventive measures is essential. Read on to learn how to deal with sensitive teeth and achieve a pain-free smile no matter what you eat.

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is also known as dentin hypersensitivity or root sensitivity. It is a sudden pain or discomfort in a tooth or more teeth when you eat anything cold, hot, sour, sweet, or breathe cold air. Sometimes, sensitive teeth may indicate more serious dental issues, including gum diseases or cracked teeth.

Tooth Sensitivity Symptoms

Sensitive teeth symptoms are often triggered upon consuming hot, sour, cold, or sweet foods or drinks. One may usually experience a sudden, sharp pain that reaches deep into the nerve endings of the teeth. In most cases, having sensitive teeth causes mild to severe discomfort or pain that may last several hours. 

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to see your dentist to determine the cause of your tooth sensitivity and get treatment. Early diagnosis and dental treatment can help prevent the problem from worsening.

Tooth Sensitivity Causes

Tooth sensitivity occurs when the tooth structure is damaged, exposing the underlying soft tissue called dentin and tooth nerves to external stimuli. Loss of tooth enamel, gum recession, or gum diseases (periodontal diseases) are some of the common culprits. Damage to the enamel (which protects the part of teeth above the gum line) or the cementum (which covers tooth roots below the gum line) exposes the dentin to external stimuli. While consuming hot or cold foods, the fluid in the microscopic dentin tubules moves and irritates the tooth nerves and causes pain, known as dentin hypersensitivity.

It is essential to understand various factors that can potentially damage the tooth enamel and cementum, giving you sensitive teeth, and they include:

  • Gum diseases: Infection of the gums and bone supporting the teeth, if left untreated, can expose the tooth roots to various stimuli, resulting in pain.

  • Gum recession: Lack of good oral hygiene causes plaque and tartar build-up along the gum line, making the gums recede and exposing the tooth roots to external stimuli.

  • Cracked teeth: A crack in the tooth enamel exposes the dentin to external stimuli that reach and irritate the tooth nerve, causing pain.

  • Brushing too hard: Aggressive brushing can wear away the tooth enamel, especially at the meeting point of gums and teeth, exposing the dentin to various stimuli.

  • Acidic diet: Regularly consuming acidic foods and drinks can cause enamel erosion and dissolve the tooth surface, exposing the dentin and making the tooth sensitive.

  • Teeth grinding: Constant grinding or clenching of teeth, a habit called bruxism, can wear away the enamel and expose the underlying dentin, causing sensitivity.

How to Prevent Sensitive Teeth?

Addressing the potential sources of dental sensitivity is the key to preventing sensitive teeth pain. Various measures that make you less susceptible to having sensitive teeth include:

  • Good oral hygiene: Regular brushing and flossing help prevent tooth decay and build-up of plaque and tartar, mitigating the chances of gum recession and periodontal diseases.

  • Avoid tooth abrasion: Adopting proper brushing techniques and using a soft-bristled toothbrush helps prevent sensitivity due to toothbrush abrasion.

  • Watch your diet: Adopting a non-acidic diet helps prevent enamel erosion, making you less susceptible to tooth sensitivity.

Tooth Sensitivity Treatment

Sensitive teeth can signal complex oral health problems besides painful discomfort. If sensitivity persists, it is ideal to consult a dental professional or dental hygienist for proper diagnosis. Tooth sensitivity treatment varies based on one’s unique oral condition. Based on the underlying cause, it may involve the use of fluoride gel, dental crowns, bonding, or gum disease treatment.

Nevertheless, it is natural to wonder how to stop sensitive teeth pain immediately. An anti-sensitivity toothpaste, such as Colgate Sensitive Plus with Pro-Argin technology, can provide instant relief from the first use. It builds a protective calcium-rich layer to seal the exposed dentin channels, preventing sudden shocks of pain due to sensitivity. Besides, its fluoride content strengthens the tooth enamel and protects teeth from cavities.

In conclusion, tooth sensitivity is a common problem that manifests as sudden pain while you enjoy hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks. The pain occurs due to the exposure of the dentin and tooth nerves to stimuli, often caused by enamel erosion or gum recession. The key is to know the causes of tooth sensitivity and prevention with good oral hygiene and dietary choices. You may try a desensitising toothpaste to get instant relief. Consulting a dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment is crucial for a long-lasting, pain-free smile.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is my tooth sensitive all of a sudden?

Sudden pain due to teeth sensitivity can be caused by tooth dentin and tooth nerves exposure to external stimuli due to worn enamel, receding gums, a cracked tooth, gum disease, or acidic diet. Ideally, consult a dentist to diagnose the cause and get proper treatment.

2. How do you fix sensitive teeth?

It is ideal to consult a dentist for effective treatment of sensitive teeth, as the sensitivity can only be addressed by treating the underlying cause, such as potential gum disease, gum recession, or cracks in the tooth. However, for instant relief, one may use a desensitising toothpaste like Colgate Sensitive Plus.

3. What deficiency causes sensitive teeth?

Damage of tooth enamel can be associated with certain deficiencies, becoming indirect reasons for sensitive teeth. While calcium strengthens the enamel, Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium. So, deficiencies in either can weaken enamel, eventually making teeth sensitive. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to gum diseases and cause sensitivity.

4. How can I treat sensitive teeth naturally?

Preventing various factors that damage the tooth structure forms the crux of tooth sensitivity treatment at home. Good oral hygiene and dietary habits help avoid damage to the tooth enamel and, hence, tooth sensitivity. Regular use of anti-sensitivity toothpaste, such as Colgate Sensitive Plus, helps with instant relief and long-term protection from sudden shocks of pain.