Tooth sensitivity — also known as dentin hypersensitivity — affects the tooth or exposed root surfaces. This occurs when the enamel that protects our teeth gets thinner, or when gum recession occurs, exposing the dentin, thus, reducing the protection the enamel and gums provide to the tooth and root.
If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air, makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive or painful then you may have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.
There are many causes of tooth sensitivity, including:
- Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or brushing too aggressively
- Tooth erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages
- Tooth erosion due to bulimia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Gum recession that leaves your root surface exposed
If the sensitivity is due to a cavity, a restoration can be placed. If gum disease is the cause, your hygienist can perform a thorough cleaning of the area.
However, if the cause is from dentin being exposed, then there are a number of professional and at home treatments that can be used to reduce the sensitivity.
In Office Procedures:
- Fluoride varnish can be applied to exposed areas, strengthening the enamel and dentin
- Bonding agent, the material used to stick tooth colored restorations to teeth, can be used to seal the dentin surface and provide a barrier to the stimuli that cause sensitivity
- Brush using a soft bristle brush twice per day no sooner than 20 minutes after meals and beverages
- Use a sensitivity tooth paste such as Pronamel or Sensodyne and rub onto the affected areas
- Floss daily
- Minimize grazing, especially on foods and beverages that are acidic
- Seek medical advice if you have bulimia or GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)