Summer is synonymous with ice cream, popsicles and other cold treats. And while these things can all be quite delightful, they can also be painful for people who suffer from tooth sensitivity. They can even be the first indicator that someone has sensitive teeth. So as summer continues to ramp up and as cool treats become a more regular part of our adventures, we wanted to take this opportunity to give you a quick overview of tooth sensitivity.
In this blog, we'll explain what tooth sensitivity is, what causes it, other dental problems that are often confused with tooth sensitivity, ways to treat it and more. Like always, if you have any questions that weren't answered in the post or would like to discuss tooth sensitivity with one of our team members, get in touch with us by phone, email or stop into our Guelph office and someone would be more than happy to help you.
Tooth Sensitivity Explained
Let’s start off by explaining what tooth sensitivity is and how it’s caused. As you may or may not already know, every tooth in your mouth has a layer of enamel on it. Over time and due to aggressive brushing or acidic foods and drinks, the enamel on your teeth can wear down to a point where the layer of dentin underneath becomes exposed. This is when tooth sensitivity occurs. Dentin is made up of many microscopic tubes that provide each tooth with blood and nutrients, and they also contain each tooth's nerve fibres. As the dentin on your teeth becomes exposed to different stimulants, including various degrees of pressure or food/drinks that are hot, cold, sweet or sour, it changes the flow of fluids through these tubes. This is then translated into pain or discomfort in the tooth or multiple teeth, depending on the severity of your condition.
Conditions Confused with Tooth Sensitivity
We often get patients coming to us thinking they are experiencing tooth sensitivity. In some cases, the patient is correct in their assumption, but sometimes it’s an entirely separate condition that is causing the patient pain or discomfort.
The following conditions are often confused with tooth sensitivity and are perfect examples of why anyone experiencing pain or discomfort in a tooth or multiple teeth should consult a dentist or dental professional like ourselves.
Conditions Often Confused With Tooth Sensitivity
- Tooth decay and cavities
- Cracked or chipped tooth/teeth
- Grinding of your teeth
- A leak around fillings and other dental work
- Teeth whitening
Extreme vs. Normal Tooth Sensitivity
When it comes to tooth sensitivity, every individual patient will experience pain or discomfort differently. This is because everyone has a unique pain threshold and because tooth sensitivity can be diagnosed in two different stages— normal and extreme.
Normal Tooth Sensitivity
It's not uncommon for someone to simply be born with sensitive teeth. You may experience a slight sensation occasionally when drinking something cold or biting into something hot, but it's not necessarily a severe concern. Being born with sensitive teeth often means you have a thinner layer of enamel covering each tooth than most people and is regarded as “normal” tooth sensitivity. With a routine in place that involves proper brushing and flossing, most patients can limit the severity of their tooth sensitivity to that of just slight pain or discomfort. In these cases, we still recommend that patients visit their dentist as it’s sometimes not enough to merely purchase specially-developed toothpaste or other products. Every instance of tooth sensitivity is unique and only with the help of a dental professional should you develop a plan for treating it.
Extreme Tooth Sensitivity
This is where things get a little more serious. Extreme tooth sensitivity often starts as normal sensitivity but grows into more severe and frequent pain or discomfort. If occasional sensations seem to be becoming more frequent, severe or appear to be caused by more stimulants, this could be the first sign that your tooth sensitivity has escalated to the extreme stage. This is when it's time to see your dentist again. Untreated extreme tooth sensitivity can sometimes lead to more severe pain or conditions if ignored for too long.
Treating Tooth Sensitivity
Here’s the good news. The majority of tooth sensitivity cases, whether minor or major, can be treated to help cure the problem or lessen the severity of the pain or discomfort. All these solutions should be decided on with the assistance of your dentist to ensure you receive the proper treatment for your specific case.
Ways to Treat Tooth Sensitivity
- First and foremost, schedule an appointment with your dentist to discuss the sensitivity
- Continue to keep up with your regular cleanings
- Consider using a preventative toothpaste. These products mineralize the enamel on your teeth to strengthen and protect it
- Complete any required dental work. Fillings and crowns can all help protect weak teeth
- In some cases, more severe procedures like root canals or gum grafts are needed to treat a sensitive tooth
Ways to Prevent Tooth Sensitivity
If you know someone experiencing tooth sensitivity but aren't experiencing it yourself, you more than likely consider yourself fortunate. Nobody wants to experience pain or discomfort, so we recommend following these preventative tips to protect your teeth and lessen your chance of ever developing tooth sensitivity.
- Brush regularly. You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again, brush in a slow circular motion using minimal pressure.
- Maintain a regular checkup schedule.
- Limit the amount of sugary food and drinks you consume
- Drink lots of water throughout the day. This cleans your mouth and limits bacteria and plaque buildup.
We hope you've learned something about tooth sensitivity. Our hope was not to scare you, but instead give you the information you need to be aware of the causes and signs of sensitive teeth. As mentioned above, if you think you might be developing sensitive teeth, have a question regarding tooth sensitivity or any other dental condition or would like to schedule an appointment to meet with one of our team members, reach out to us by phone or email and we would be more than happy to help.