You may have sensitive teeth if you experience sharp pain or discomfort after consuming hot or cold foods and drinks. Tooth sensitivity is a common dental complication and could be caused by various factors, including tooth decay, worn enamel, and cracked teeth. When your tooth enamel is worn out, the nerves will be exposed to foods and drinks, causing sensitivity and pain.

When you consult a dentist with symptoms of sensitive teeth, the dentist will examine all aspects of your oral health before recommending treatment. Sometimes, you may need to provide a history of procedures you have undergone, including tooth replacement or whitening. Tooth sensitivity can create extreme sensitivity and impact your life. Therefore, consulting a skilled dentist is critical.

At Washington Dental, we offer many treatments to reduce and prevent tooth sensitivity to patients seeking dental expertise in Lomita, CA. Our dentist will assess your oral health to determine the exact cause of the sensitivity and treat it to avoid future occurrences.

Understanding Teeth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is a dental health condition characterized by sharp pain and discomfort when you bite down or consume hot or cold foods. You will have a sensitive tooth if the inner layer of the tooth is exposed to outside conditions. This could result from tooth decay, enamel erosion, or gum recession.

The tooth root not covered by enamel contains tubules that lead to the pulp. The tubules allow the sensation to travel to the nerves in your tooth, resulting in pain. Sensitive teeth can happen at all ages. However, it is more common in adults.

Tooth sensitivity could be temporary or permanent, depending on the underlying factors. If the sensitivity lingers, it may be best to consult your dentist for a checkup and appropriate treatment. Sensitive teeth are characterized by sharp pain when your teeth come into contact with the following:

  • Hot or cold foods and beverages.
  • Sweet beverages and foods.
  • Cold water after a routine dental cleaning procedure.
  • Acidic beverages and foods.
  • Alcoholic beverages.
  • Cold air.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Several factors in your oral health could cause tooth sensitivity. Understanding the exact cause of this condition makes it easier to apply the proper treatment. When you consult a dentist with symptoms of tooth sensitivity, they will analyze the underlying factors before recommending treatment. Common causes of tooth sensitivity include:

Vigorous Brushing

Brushing teeth is a primary practice for good dental hygiene and oral health. When you brush your teeth, you will remove the residual food particles from your gums, teeth, and tongue. Dentists recommend brushing your teeth twice a day and using the proper technique.

This involves brushing in a circular motion to remove all the plaque and tartar from the enamel. You should also use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid vigorous brushing. Using excessive force to brush your teeth can wear down the tooth's protective layers and expose the nerves.

When exposed to extreme temperatures, you will experience sharp pain equal to tooth sensitivity.

Teeth Grinding

Most people will clench or grind their teeth occasionally. A few instances of grinding your teeth may not cause you any problems. However, you can suffer severe dental complications when it is a habit. Teeth grinding could occur consciously or unconsciously in your sleep. This condition could be a result of stress or an abnormal bite.

Since the grinding occurs mostly at night, it may be challenging to detect the problem. During your dental visits, your dentist can assess the condition of your teeth and detect teeth-grinding behavior. Some signs your dentist will look out for when checking for bruxism are jaw pain and enamel damage.

Teeth grinding will cause the loosening and fracturing of your tooth enamel. This could expose the inner parts of the root and cause sensitivity.

Receding Gums

Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth. Receding gums could be caused by genetics, smoking, or vigorous brushing. When the gums pull away, the tooth root is exposed, and you may experience sensitivity when consuming hot or cold drinks.

Although receding gums can affect anyone at any age, older individuals are at a higher risk of dental complications. Additionally, your risk of gum recession increases under the following circumstances:

  • You have periodontal gum disease.
  • You chew tobacco.
  • Braces or other orthodontic treatments.

Cracked Teeth

You could suffer a fracture due to trauma, teeth grinding, or age. A cracked tooth is when you notice a fracture in the tooth enamel. Depending on the severity of the damage, a crack could be small, harmless, or large enough to break or split the tooth. A tooth crack can affect the root or crown. Your dentist may classify the tooth fracture under any of these categories:

  • Cracked tooth. A cracked tooth is characterized by a vertical line that runs from the biting surface and can extend to the root or gum line.
  • Craze lines. The thin crack appears on the outer part of the enamel and does not cause any pain.
  • Split tooth. This crack extends from the tooth surface to the gum line. In this case, the fracture can split your tooth into two parts.
  • Vertical fracture. This crack starts from the gum line to the tooth’s biting surface.

Some of the factors that could cause a tooth fracture include:

  • Age. As you age, the strength of your tooth enamel decreases. This increases your risk of developing a crack with the slightest pressure on the enamel.
  • Biting into hard foods. Habits like chewing ice or crushing nuts with your teeth can cause the enamel to crack.
  • Large fillings. A large filling can weaken the tooth and cause a fracture.
  • Trauma. Physical trauma occurring in accidents or vigorous spots can cause enamel fractures.

A crack in your tooth will expose the dentin to cold or hot foods, causing sensitivity. If you have a cracked tooth, you must consult a dentist even if you have not experienced pain or sensitivity.

Gum Disease

Periodontal gum disease is an infection of the gum tissues that hold your teeth properly. Gum disease could be caused by the accumulation of plaque and bacteria on the surfaces of the teeth and gums. Gum diseases begin with red, swollen gums. The infection could spread to the surrounding gums and bones if left untreated. You will experience pain as you chew if you have gum disease.

Poor oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of gum disease. When you fail to remove the tartar from your tooth enamel, it can accumulate and create a conducive environment for the growth of bacteria. When supporting ligaments are lost due to gum disease, the root surface and nerves will be exposed, resulting in sensitivity.

Constant Consumption of Acidic Foods

Sugar is not the only dietary component that could cause dental complications. Acidic foods and beverages can damage the enamel that protects your teeth through a process known as dental erosion. This could change your teeth's appearance and open pathways for bacteria to enter your mouth. You may experience the following symptoms if you have tooth erosion:

  • Pain and sensitivity when you consume sweet, hot, or cold drinks.
  • Tooth discoloration.
  • Increased risk of cavities.
  • Dental Abscess in extreme cases.

You may need extensive dental procedures like crowns, root canals, or fillings when dental erosion occurs.

Recent Orthodontic Procedures

You could experience tooth sensitivity after a dental procedure. Common procedures that can cause sensitivity include:

  • Fillings. Tooth fillings are dental restorations used to treat dental cavities that are not large enough to warrant an implant. Dental fillings could be made of a single material or a combination of glass, plastic, and metal. Large dental fillings could put pressure on the tooth's nerves and cause severe pain and sensitivity.
  • Teeth cleaning. A deep tooth cleaning done at the dental office could cause sensitivity. While the dentist removes the tartar and plaque from the surface beneath the gums, they could expose the root, causing sensitivity.

The sensitivity resulting from orthodontic procedures is temporary and will disappear after several weeks. You can consult with your dentist if the sensitivity persists.

Treatment for Sensitive Teeth

After determining the exact cause of your tooth sensitivity, the dentist will recommend the following treatments:

Fluoride Treatment

Professional fluoride treatment involves using a concentrated rinse, foam, or gel applied with a tray, brush, or swab. The products used in this treatment contain a higher fluoride concentration than toothpaste and water. You should provide your complete dental history before the dentist begins this procedure.

Dental Bonding

If your tooth sensitivity results from an exposed tooth root surface, bonding could be applied to cover the surface of the exposed tooth and reduce sensitivity. Local anesthesia may be needed during the bonding procedure.

Gum Graft

When you have lost some gum tissue and your tooth is exposed, the dentist could recommend a gum graft. A small piece of gum tissue is attached to the affected site from another part of your mouth. This will help protect the exposed roots from further damage.

Root Canal

Tooth sensitivity originates from the tooth nerves. A root canal may be your only solution if other treatments and remedies are ineffective for your sensitive tooth. A root canal is the most effective way of eliminating tooth sensitivity, and it involves the removal of the infected tooth pulp and saving your tooth.

Home remedies for Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity can create pain and discomfort when eating and drinking. Before you visit your dentist for a review and treatment for your tooth sensitivity, you can try the following home remedies:

  • Oil pulling. You can use coconut or sesame oil to reduce tooth sensitivity. Oil pulling is a practice that involves swishing this type of oil around the sensitive tooth for several minutes before spitting it out. This practice is known to reduce the symptoms of gum disease, a significant cause of sensitive teeth. Oil pulling will reduce the formation of plaque around your teeth and protect your gums.
  • Garlic. Garlic is known for its many health benefits. You can use garlic cloves to reduce pain and sensitivity in the teeth. Chewing raw garlic produces a compound known as allicin. This compound has antimicrobial factors that kill bacteria, which could result in dental complications. A buildup of bacteria on your tooth enamel or gums can cause gum disease or tooth decay, which are common causes of pain and sensitivity.
  • Turmeric. Turmeric is a yellow spice known for its anti-inflammatory components. You can reduce tooth sensitivity and pain by mixing the turmeric powder in water and rubbing it around the gums.
  • Salt water rinse. Using saltwater to rinse your mouth is a common way to fight oral bacteria and improve dental hygiene. Research done in 2017 shows that salt water can be used as a mouthwash to reduce the accumulation of bacteria that causes dental complications. You can rinse the salt water by mixing eight ounces of water with half a teaspoon of salt. You can swirl the water around your mouth several times before spitting it out.
  • Desensitizing agents. Using a desensitizing toothpaste could make your dentin less permeable. Dentin is the hard tissue lying below the tooth enamel. When your dentin is less permeable, liquid cannot easily pass through it. Reduced permeability will protect the tooth nerves and decrease the sensitivity you experience after consuming hot or cold substances. Desensitizing toothpastes contain oxalates, potassium, and other metal ions for this function.
  • Fluoride. Using dental products like toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride can help reduce the risk of cavities and protect you from tooth sensitivity. Fluoride is a critical element for developing and maintaining healthy teeth and gums. However, you should not overuse these products to avoid complications like tooth discoloration.
  • Hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a disinfectant and mild antiseptic. The product is used to sterilize burns and wounds to prevent infection. You could use hydrogen peroxide-based mouthwash to prevent inflammation and heal your gums. Like the saltwater rinses, you must swish the hydrogen peroxide solution in your mouth for a few seconds before spitting it out. You can repeat the practice each day for effective results.

Tooth Sensitivity Prevention Measures

Most dental complications, including tooth sensitivity, can be prevented. The following are tips you can explore to avoid instances of sensitive teeth:

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

The most common causes of tooth sensitivity stem from poor oral hygiene. This includes the formation of plaque and, eventually, tooth decay. A good oral hygiene routine is the best way to reduce the likelihood of having a sensitive tooth. The elements of good oral hygiene include:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day. Teeth brushing is the most basic form of dental hygiene. You should start brushing your child’s teeth when the first tooth erupts. This creates a routine that they will continue as teenagers and adults. Brushing your teeth at least twice a day helps remove the buildup of food particles around the tooth enamel. This prevents the formation of bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Flossing. Flossing at least once a day helps remove food particles and residues lodged between your teeth. You should be gentle while flossing your teeth to prevent injury to the gums.

Use a Soft Bristled Toothbrush

Vigorous brushing can cause significant damage to your tooth enamel and gums. Some people prefer a hard-bristled toothbrush, assuming it cleans their teeth better. However, trauma to the gums will cause them to recede and expose the sensitive parts of the tooth to cold or hot substances.

Since periodontal treatments may be costly, preventing this complication will be better than treatment. By using a soft-bristled toothbrush, you will be protecting your gums and teeth from damage and sensitivity. In addition to using a soft-bristled toothbrush, it would be best to change it every three months.

A soft-bristled toothbrush may not last longer. Therefore, its effectiveness in correctly cleaning your teeth will be reduced with time.

Use Fluoride Dental Products

Fluoride is a critical element of tooth development and health. Using fluoride toothpaste, mouthwash, and other dental products helps strengthen your teeth and can prevent complications resulting in tooth sensitivity. Some of the benefits of fluoride dental products include:

  • Remineralization of the enamel by bonding in areas prone to decay. Additionally, fluoride attracts minerals like calcium to the tooth damage site.
  • Fluoride prevents further tooth decay and the development of cavities. This is done by producing a type of tooth enamel that is highly resistant to bacteria and acids. However, fluoride will not repair cavities that have already developed. Therefore, if you already have tooth decay, you must visit your dentist for further instructions.
  • Fluoride has antibacterial properties, preventing the growth of bacteria that cause tooth decay and cavities.

While fluoride benefits your teeth, fluoride products should be used sparingly. Excessive use of fluoride dental products during tooth formation could damage your teeth.

Avoid Excessive Tooth Whitening

Teeth whitening involves brightening the shade of your tooth enamel to achieve a better smile. You can whiten your teeth using over-the-counter whitening products or toothpaste, or visit your dentist for an in-office procedure. While whitening is a fast and affordable cosmetic procedure, you should avoid excessive use of these products.

Constant teeth whitening can damage your tooth enamel and cause extreme pain and sensitivity. A skilled dentist will advise you on the right intervals for teeth whitening procedures.

Use Mouth Guard During the Night

Mouthguards are a good solution for people with tooth-grinding problems. Teeth grinding can damage your tooth enamel and cause sensitivity. You can purchase a mouthguard over the counter or make a custom-made one. Most people prefer custom-made mouthguards because they are comfortable and durable.

In addition to preventing tooth sensitivity, you can accrue the following benefits from wearing a mouth guard when you sleep:

  • Prevents chronic headaches. Teeth grinding will damage not only your tooth enamel but also your jawbone. This could cause severe headaches.
  • Prevents temporomandibular joint disorder. The temporomandibular joint connects the skull and jaw. You will apply excessive pressure to the TMJ when you clench your teeth. This could cause misalignment and dysfunction. With TMJ disorder, you may experience extreme jaw pain when you chew.
  • Saves you money. The cost of replacing damaged teeth could take a toll on your financial life. Wearing a mouth guard will prevent tooth damage and the need for replacement procedures.

Regular Dental Visits

Teeth sensitivity could be prevented when the underlying factors are detected and treated on time. Making regular dental visits helps in the detection of dental complications. During dental visits, your dentist will examine every aspect of your oral health for signs of tooth decay, gum disease, or other complications.

If you have signs of tooth decay or cavities, the dentist will recommend a way to treat the tooth or slow down the process. Your dentist can recommend a mouth guard or other remedy for individuals with teeth grinding issues to prevent the damaging practice.

Avoid Sugary and Acidic Foods

The consumption of sugary and acidic foods harms your dental health and well-being. The sugary foods create a conducive environment for bacteria to thrive. Coupled with poor oral hygiene, sugary foods can cause many dental complications, including tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

Acidic foods, on the other hand, could corrode the tooth enamel and expose the nerves, causing sensitivity. By avoiding these foods, you can save yourself from the pain and discomfort associated with tooth sensitivity.

Find a Competent General Dentist Near Me

Tooth sensitivity is the mild to sharp pain in your teeth experienced when you bite down or consume hot or cold foods and drinks. You can experience sensitivity on one or multiple teeth, depending on the underlying cause. A sensitive tooth can cause extreme pain and discomfort, affecting your eating or drinking abilities.

Several factors could contribute to tooth sensitivity, including tooth decay, gum disease, and receding gums. Sometimes vigorous crushing could harm your tooth enamel and expose the dentin, causing sensitivity. For individuals who use constant teeth whitening, the chemicals used in whitening could wear down their tooth enamel and cause this complication.

If you experience the symptoms of sensitive teeth, your dentist may recommend various treatments, including treatment of underlying dental issues and changing your oral hygiene routine and lifestyle. Finding a competent dentist to handle tooth sensitivity can be a nerve-wracking experience. At Washington Dental, we offer top-notch dental services for our clients in Lomita, CA. Call us at 310-326-5183 for a consultation.