Many people experience tooth sensitivity and pain – but that doesn’t mean you have to live with the discomfort!

While good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent tooth sensitivity, there are home remedies and professional dental care that can help with ongoing and severe sensitivity.

The first step in addressing tooth sensitivity is understanding what causes it as well as knowing the symptoms. From there, you can try different remedies to help deal with the pain.

If those remedies don’t work, however, it’s imperative that you seek the guidance of a professional dentist.

Ready to get started? Let’s learn more about tooth sensitivity!

What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, can be caused by many things. However, it is commonly caused by enamel wear and/or receding gums when the “dentin” (the softer, inner part of the tooth) becomes exposed.

Within the dentin, thousands of microscopic channels run toward the centre of the tooth along with the nerves. When the dentin is exposed to things that are hot and cold, it can stimulate the nerves and cause sharp and jolting pain.

Unfortunately, once the dentin of your tooth is exposed, it will not heal itself. However, you can take steps to address the tooth sensitivity and reduce the pain.

As many as 1 in 3 people experience dentin hypersensitivity at some point in their life.

What Does Tooth Sensitivity Feel Like?

Those who suffer from tooth sensitivity often describe the pain as sharp and stabbing – think of nails running down a chalkboard!

Overall, the pain is intense and unpleasant, which is why you should never ignore tooth sensitivity in the hopes that it will go away.

Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity

Overall, people with sensitive teeth experience pain or discomfort when triggered by certain things like hot and cold beverages. The pain is generally felt at the root of the affected teeth.

Here are some common triggers:

  • Hot foods and drinks
  • Cold foods and drinks
  • Acidic foods and drinks (citrus, tomatoes, etc.)
  • Sweet foods and drinks
  • Cold air
  • Cold water 
  • Brushing or flossing
  • Alcohol-based mouth rinses

Symptoms can come and go over time with no obvious cause other than the pain in relation to triggers. The pain can range from mild to intense.

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

We already mentioned what physically causes tooth sensitivity, but what activities actually cause a tooth to become sensitive?

While some people naturally have thinner enamel and more sensitive teeth than others, your enamel can be worn down by doing the following:

  • Brushing your teeth too hard.
  • Using a toothbrush that is too hard.
  • Grinding your teeth.
  • Eating acidic foods or drinking acidic drinks on a regular basis.

There are also medical conditions that can cause tooth sensitivity such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux) which causes acid to rise from the stomach and esophagus into your mouth. This can wear teeth down over time.

Also, frequent vomiting caused by conditions such as gastroparesis and bulimia can cause acid to wear down the enamel.

Apart from issues with acid, gum recession can cause sensitivity because it leaves sections of the tooth exposed and unprotected. 

Here are some other causes that can leave the dentin of the tooth exposed and lead to tooth sensitivity:

  • Tooth decay
  • Broken teeth
  • Chipped teeth
  • Worn-down fillings or crowns

These causes will likely only cause sensitivity in one particular tooth or area of the mouth.

You may also experience sensitivity following dental work such as fillings, crowns, or bleaching. Again, this usually confines the sensitivity to one tooth and subsides after several days.

Tooth Sensitivity: Treatment Options

Young woman brushing her teeth at mirror

Even though the dentin of your tooth cannot heal itself, there are treatment options when it comes to addressing the discomfort.

First, you can try over-the-counter dental treatments such as toothpaste for sensitive teeth. These kinds of toothpaste do not contain irritants and often have desensitizing agents that help block the pain from getting to the nerve of the tooth.

If you use mouthwash, opt for a brand that is alcohol-free. Also, try using a toothbrush with softer bristles and brush your teeth more gently.

Anything you choose to use at home can take several days to work and you should see an improvement within a week.

However, if at-home treatments do not work, contact your dentist to discuss other options such as prescription toothpaste and mouthwashes.

They may also suggest having a fluoride gel or prescription-grade desensitizing product applied in-office, which can help strengthen your enamel and protect your teeth.

Visiting your dentist is highly recommended when it comes to addressing tooth sensitivity. Not only can they prescribe you stronger treatments but they can diagnose the cause of the sensitivity and potentially correct the issue.

Preventing Tooth Sensitivity

Of course, they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! If you want to avoid tooth sensitivity altogether, here are some ways you can protect your enamel:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth once a day.
  • If you whiten your teeth, take breaks from doing so from time to time.
  • Limit your consumption of foods that contain high amounts of sugar, starch, and acide.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • If you grind your teeth, wear a mouthguard at night.
  • If you smoke, quit.

The number one way you can prevent tooth sensitivity is to visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and check-ups!

When Should I See a Dentist?

Tooth sensitivity can come and go but if you are experiencing ongoing or severe tooth pain, it’s definitely time to see a dentist.

Again, they can prescribe stronger treatment options or correct the cause of the sensitivity. This may include fillings, crowns, inlays/onlays, surgical gum grafts, extractions, and root canals.

Our experienced team of dentists in North Edmonton is proud to offer the best level of care! 

If you have any questions about tooth sensitivity or any other dental procedure, don’t hesitate to contact us and ask! 

Click here to contact our Oxford Office.

Click here to contact our Abbotsfield Office.

We look forward to taking care of your smile!