Sensitive Teeth a Common Problem for Young Women
Learn what to do to protect yourself from tooth pain due to sensitivity.
According to a recent survey, 1 in 8 Americans may have sensitive teeth that cause noticeable pain or discomfort during everyday activities like sipping a hot or cold beverage, chewing, or brushing their teeth. The survey found that adults between the ages of 18 and 44 were 3.5 times more likely to have problems with sensitivity, and women were 1.8 times more likely than men to have sensitive teeth.
In order to understand why this would be, we need to understand what causes tooth sensitivity and what risk factors increase a person’s chance for developing a problem.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Normally, the nerves inside a tooth are protected from stimulation by outside factors like pressure, temperature, and acidity by tooth enamel or by gum tissue. However, if the enamel is lost or damaged, or if the gums recede, this exposes the porous dentin. Stimuli can then reach the nerves of the tooth via tube-like structures in the dentin. Because the layer of dentin in a tooth thickens with age, younger people with thinner dentin seem to be more likely to have a problem with stimuli being transmitted through the dentin and causing pain or sensitivity.
Anything that causes enamel erosion or receding gums can be considered a risk factor for tooth sensitivity. This includes:
- Tooth grinding
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Excessive plaque
- Acidic food and drink
- Overuse of whitening products
Whitening strips as well as whitening toothpastes can potentially contribute to enamel erosion, especially if used too frequently. It is not only the bleaching ingredients that may pose a problem but also the abrasive ingredients that may actually wear away enamel when applied too vigorously with a hard-bristled toothbrush. Considering that women are more likely to use whitening products than men, this might be one means for explaining why the study found women were more likely to have tooth sensitivity. Another possibility is that the women were more willing to admit pain than the men.
When it comes to treating sensitive teeth, in most cases using a specially formulated toothpaste that helps to plug the tubes in the dentin is your best treatment option. You should also take steps to stop the behavior that led to the enamel erosion in the first place. For example you might need to improve your oral care routine to guard against tooth decay or get a mouthguard to help with tooth grinding.
If the sensitivity is due to receding gums, you will want to make sure you get evaluated and treated for gum disease. In extreme cases, sealing the tooth with a bonding agent or having surgery to correct receding gums may be needed to relieve the sensitivity problem.