Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

One of the more aggravating oral health conditions that a patient can experience is sensitive teeth. It’s fairly oral-healthcommon – at least 45 million Americans report experiencing it at one time or another – and can result from a variety of causes.

Here are just a few reasons your teeth might be sensitive and negatively impacting your oral health.

Potential causes of sensitive teeth

1.      Bacterial plaque buildup. An excessive build-up of plaque can cause the enamel layer of your teeth to wear away, and your teeth can become more sensitive as they lose that protection. It’s vitally important for this reason to brush and floss daily and to see your dentist on a regular basis for prophylactic cleanings.

2.      Brushing too hard, or with inappropriate tools. If you brush your teeth and push down to the point where you’re squashing the bristles against your teeth, you’re brushing too hard. Teeth sensitivity can also result from using abrasive whitening toothpastes or alcohol-based over-the-counter mouthwashes, or from using a toothbrush with hard bristles.

3.      Teeth grinding/bruxism. If you grind your teeth due to stress, you can wear down the enamel layer of your teeth. You may not even be aware you’re doing this, as many with bruxism grind their teeth in their sleep. Ask your dentist to evaluate your teeth if you think this might be a problem.

4.      Periodontal disease. Gum disease, if left untreated, can cause gum recession, which can expose the tooth roots below the gumline in the mouth. The roots are not covered by enamel and are very sensitive if unprotected.

5.      Acidic foods. Highly acidic foods, such as tomatoes or citrus fruits such as oranges or lemons, are known to irritate sensitive teeth in some patients.

6.     Cracks and chips in teeth, or decay around a tooth filling. Any damage to a tooth that erodes the enamel layer can make that tooth extra sensitive.

Treatments for sensitive teeth can include dentist-dispensed fluoride treatments, using soft-bristled toothbrushes and toothpastes formulated for sensitive teeth, and avoiding troublesome foods. Your dentist may also recommend repairing a damaged tooth through restorations such as crowns.

“The good news about the oral health challenge of tooth sensitivity is that while it is fairly common, it’s also readily treatable,” says Dr. Carol Ford, a cosmetic dentist who practices in central Phoenix. “Your dentist can help you evaluate its cause and severity, and recommend the proper treatment.”

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