Common Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

  • Nov 15 2020

What could be causing my teeth to be so sensitive to hot and cold foods and beverages?

Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity or root sensitivity, affects a large portion of the population at one time or another. It is usually the result of an area of the enamel becoming damaged for some reason and exposing the dentin, which is the layer of the tooth directly beneath it. The dentin layer is made up of tubules or microscopic channels that lead straight to the nerve. Once the nerve is no longer protected from outside stimuli, the individual is likely to experience painful responses. 

Consuming hot or cold beverages is often the trigger for this sort of tooth sensitivity for many people, but it can also be caused by certain types of food, pressure on the area with the damaged enamel and cold air, which can be especially painful. Brushing and flossing teeth, as well as using an alcohol-based mouthwash or rinse can also be triggers. 

Sensitive Teeth: Common Causes

The tooth sensitivity that you feel, if persistent, can begin to affect your social interactions and ultimately your quality of life. Knowing what may be causing it can help you modify your behavior until you are able to have your dentist repair any damage, as well as help you avoid recreating the issue in the future. Some of the most common causes of developing tooth sensitivity include: 

  • Improper brushing – using a toothbrush with particularly hard bristles and/or brushing with excessive force can actually wear down the enamel on your teeth over time. On the flip side, not brushing adequately can lead to plaque buildup which is likely to eventually damage the enamel.
  • Dietary choices – one group of foods that teeth tend to be hypersensitive to are those with high acidic content. This doesn’t mean that you have to banish tomato sauce and citric fruits from your diet entirely, but, while you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it would be best to restrict them.
  • Drinking wine or carbonated beverages – both of these contain acids that can harm the enamel on your teeth. A good practice, if you intend to drink either, is to rinse your mouth afterward with plain water and wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth. Brushing immediately following consumption can actually cause more damage. 
  • Grinding teeth – this eventually wears away the enamel.
  • Tooth-whitening products – whitening agents can create sensitivity.
  • Alcohol-based mouthwash – mouthwash and mouth rinses can certainly make our mouths feel extra clean and make our breath minty-fresh but those with alcohol can contribute to dental sensitivity. 
  • Gum disease – receding gums can be the cause of sensitivity.
  • Dental procedures – it is common for teeth to be sensitive following procedures but should only be temporary.
  • Cracks or chips – having cracks or chips in one or more teeth creates a break in the enamel and access to the underlying layers. 
  • Fillings – older fillings that are starting to break down can create areas where acids can buildup and accelerate damage to the enamel. 

If you have tooth sensitivity, the good news is that it is very treatable. Your dentist will be able to recommend the options that are best for your particular situation. 

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Categories: General Dentistry