Have Sensitive Teeth? Here’s What to Know
Sensitive teeth are an uncomfortable problem that may require a trip to your Rochester periodontist. If you experience discomfort after eating ice cream, sipping a cold drink, or eating a spoonful of hot soup, you’re among the many suffering from tooth sensitivity.
The official term for tooth sensitivity is “dentin hypersensitivity” and involves pain or discomfort in the teeth in response to stimuli, such as hot or cold temperatures. Tooth sensitivity can have a variety of causes, most of which are treated easily. However, they can also be a sign of a deeper problem. Here’s what to know.
Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity always involves discomfort or pain in response to triggers like hot or cold food or air passing along the tooth.
Triggers can vary among individuals but may include:
- Hot food or drinks
- Cold food or drinks
- Cold water
- Sweet or sugary foods or drinks
- Acidic foods or drinks
- Brushing or flossing
- Cold air
Tooth sensitivity ranges from mild to intense, depending on the cause and severity.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Some people naturally have more sensitive teeth due to having thinner enamel on the outer layer of the tooth. You can also cause your enamel to wear down by grinding your teeth, eating or drinking acidic foods and drinks, or brushing your teeth too hard.
Medical conditions can also lead to tooth sensitivity, such as gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), which causes acid to come up from the stomach.1 GERD can wear down your teeth over time. Other conditions, such as bulimia or gastroparesis, can also wear down tooth enamel.2
Gum disease or tooth decay and damage can also cause tooth sensitivity, either in one tooth or multiple teeth. Gum recession causes more tooth exposure, resulting in pain or discomfort. Cavities, chipped teeth, damaged fillings and crowns, and fractured teeth are also more sensitive due to the tooth’s dentin being more exposed.
Often, dental work can leave teeth feeling sensitive for a short time, such as fillings, crowns, or bleaching. In these situations, the sensitivity is usually just the one tooth or the surrounding teeth, and it should go away in a few days.
Treatment Options for Tooth Sensitivity
It is essential to see your dentist or periodontist if you experience tooth sensitivity to diagnose the cause and treat it properly, be it dental or otherwise.
Mild tooth sensitivity may be effectively treated with over-the-counter options, such as toothpaste and mouthwash formulated for sensitive teeth. If your sensitivity is caused by improper brushing or flossing techniques, consider replacing your toothbrush with one that has soft bristles and brush or floss gently.
If your tooth sensitivity is caused by a medical condition, such as GERD or bulimia, it’s essential to have the underlying condition treated.
Lifestyle choices or behaviors that damage your tooth or enamel should also be corrected to address tooth sensitivity. This might mean reducing acidic foods in your diet and wearing a mouthguard to prevent tooth grinding at night.
Treatment Options for Gum Disease
If your tooth sensitivity is due to gum disease, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, you should seek treatment from a periodontist.3 Depending on the severity of your condition, you have different treatment options.
Mild gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal gum disease. This is when the plaque that forms on the teeth accumulates, causing inflammation in the gums. People with gingivitis typically have swollen gums that bleed with brushing and flossing. A periodontist can usually treat this through deep periodontal cleaning, which may stop the progression into more severe gum disease.
Periodontitis is the more severe progression of gum. The bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums, triggering a chronic inflammatory response, which can break down the tissues and bone that support the teeth.
At this stage, the gum may separate from the teeth, leaving open “pockets” that can further gather bacteria and food particles and may become infected. Consequently, the infection further degrades the tissue and bone, eventually leading to tooth loss.
Your periodontist may treat periodontitis with deep cleaning, but they may also recommend using a gum graft. In this procedure, your periodontist will take tissue from the soft palate and graft it over the tooth’s root for protection and to reduce sensitivity.
Treating Tooth Sensitivity with a Periodontist in Rochester
Tooth sensitivity can range from mild to severe, depending on its underlying cause. If you suspect that your tooth sensitivity is due to gum disease, contact us today to schedule your consultation! 585.685.2005