6 Possible Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Learn what causes the enamel erosion that leads to sensitive teeth.
Are your teeth sensitive to hot, cold, or acidic foods? Maybe food and drink doesn’t bother you, but brushing, flossing, or chewing is painful. Whether you get a sharp pain or a dull ache, the culprit is likely dentin hypersensitivity.
Dentin hypersensitivity is more commonly known as sensitive teeth. This condition is caused by the erosion of the protective enamel that covers teeth. Once enough enamel is lost, the dentin, or bony substance comprising the roots and body of the tooth, becomes exposed. Exposed dentin causes pain because stimuli from temperature, pressure, or acidity that were once kept outside the tooth by the enamel can now reach the nerve of the tooth via the thousands of tiny tubules that permeate the dentin.
Tooth sensitivity can be traced back to a number of possible causes or contributing factors. Here are 6 of them:
1. Bruxism. Bruxism is the clinical term for tooth grinding. Whether you are clenching or grinding your teeth while asleep or while awake, over time it is possible to wear down the enamel to such an extent that the dentin becomes exposed.
2. Overbrushing. If you brush your teeth too hard (especially if you are using a toothbrush with hard bristles) it is possible to actually wear away the enamel on your teeth.
3. Tooth Decay. Sensitivity is often a sign that tooth decay has eaten through your enamel, causing a cavity. Areas around existing fillings may also become sensitive if the filling begins to fail.
4. Excessive Plaque. Bacteria builds up on teeth in a film called plaque. If this plaque becomes excessive, the acids produced by the bacteria can cause enamel erosion.
5. Whitening Products. Some over the counter teeth whitening products can damage enamel, especially if used too frequently. To protect your enamel, always get professional teeth whitening at the dentist’s office.
6. Diet Choices. Foods that are high in acid can also contribute to enamel erosion, especially if you snack on them frequently without rinsing or brushing afterwards. Foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and pickles are high in acid, as are beverages like tea and soda.
The pain from serious dental problems such as cracked or chipped teeth is sometimes mistaken for dentin hypersensitivity. It is important to visit your dentist promptly as soon as you experience dental pain so that the root cause of that pain may be correctly identified and professionally treated.