Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

Tooth Anatomy

Teeth can be sensitive tor several reasons.  This blog will touch on them, but I want to cover the Anatomy of the tooth first.

Every tooth is composed of four layers.  Each layer serves a unique purpose.  Please see Figure 1 below.

  • The first layer is the one you can see. It is the “Enamel.”  The Enamel is traditionally very hard and protects the underlying layers of the tooth.  It is the exposed surface that you clean when brushing your teeth.
  • “Dentin” is the second layer. This is a hard, dense bony tissue that forms most of the tooth.  This supports the enamel and absorbs most of the pressure from eating.
  • “Pulp” is the next layer. This center layer nourishes the tooth and houses the nerves and blood vessels.
  • Lastly is the “Cementum” which covers the tooth’s root; this calcification allows the root to attach to the jaw bone.

The numbers above match with the designation in the figure below:

tooth-sensitivity-gum recession-dentin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure 1 – Tooth Anatomy

What Causes Teeth to be Sensitive?

Having teeth that are sensitive Is very common and can develop over time.  There are a host of reasons that can cause this.  Such as, if the gums have receded or the enamel has worn away; this exposes the dentin and can cause pain.  See Figure1: 2a above.  There are thousand of microscopic channels which are in the dentin and connect to the pulp.   When the dentin is exposed and the patient drinks something very cold, this stimulates the nerves in the underlying pulp which responds with a sharp pain.

Here are five common causes for sanative teeth.

  1. Vigorous brushing technique. We all know brushing two to three times a day is the best routine for taking care of your teeth but brushing too hard or using a toothbrush with rough bristles can cause damage to your pearly whites during those cleaning sessions. Using a softer toothbrush and brushing more gently can help with this problem, as well as supplementing with a fluoride mouthwash or toothpaste to strengthen the enamel and guard against tooth decay.  Oral-B™ has an electric toothbrush that warns you if you are pushi8ng too hard.

Brushing your gums too vigorously can also cause gum recession, exposing roots or Dentin; creating a whole host of problems. Gums that have already receded too far may need a gum graft to repair the damage. Gum grafts are procedures used to replace the lost gum section, and can take a few weeks of recovery time to fully heal.

  1. Acidic food and drink. Coffee, oranges, soda, tomato sauce—healthy or not, acidic foods wear down the enamel and can cause excruciating pain.  Cutting down on acidic foods in your diet can help keep the pain away or mixing acidic foods into other dishes will help neutralize the pH balance of each bite. Sipping acidic drinks with a straw prevents direct contact with the teeth, but still allows you to enjoy your favorite drink. Using a sensitive toothpaste 30 minutes before or after a meal can also help reduce pain. Avoid brushing too soon after a meal as the acid weakens the enamel, and immediate brushing can cause further damage.
  2. Grinding teeth. Besides chemical reactions causing enamel wear, physically aggressive contact such as grinding can also lead to weakened enamel on the teeth. Some people grind their teeth when nervous or angry, and some don’t even realize they do it throughout the day or while they sleep at night. A fitted mouth guard will help nighttime teeth grinders, and anti-stress techniques may help those who struggle with day-time grinding.
  3. Some whitening agents can be unbearable to a sensitive teeth sufferer. While avoiding whitening toothpaste and other whitening product is the best way to avoid pain from this vehicle, you may still wish to have a whiter smile than you currently do. Try products that contain fluoride to ease the sensitivity from the whitening agent or ask your dentist about a less intense bleach gel if your teeth are still too sensitive.
  4. Recent physical change. Whether you have a damaged tooth or undergone a recent dental procedure, tooth sensitivity and nerve exposure can be a daily struggle. Dental intervention may be necessary for physical damage to a tooth or filling. While you may have sensitivity for a few days after a dental procedure, pain lasting longer than the predicted amount of time means you may need to schedule another visit to correct the issue.

If your sensitive teeth are unbearable to live with, ask your dentist about specific remedies and recommendations to help with your individual situation.  There are plenty of options available today to combat sensitive teeth.  Call your dentist for an appointment today!