Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth Sensitivity

Approximately 45 million adults in the United States suffer at some time from sensitive teeth. One of the most common complaints among dental patients, sensitive teeth often cause a sudden, sharp pain, or mild tingling sensation. The pain is often of short duration and can move around to different locations in the mouth. Patients suffering from dental sensitivity cannot usually pinpoint the exact location of the pain, but point to a broader area in the mouth.

Our daily lifestyle behaviors and oral care habits pose a number of challenges that may contribute to increased dentin hypersensitivity, or tooth sensitivity.  The primary approach at Gold Coast Smiles towards the treatment of tooth sensitivity is to promote a greater awareness and knowledge of the risk factors involved so that we may more effectively manage teeth hypersensitivity through conservative preventive measures.



Causes of Hypersensitivity 


  • Brushing Too Hard – While brushing your teeth thoroughly is important for good oral health, brushing too hard can actually cause damage. Applying too much force while brushing or using hard-bristled toothbrushes can abrade and wear down your enamel.
    When the enamel becomes worn away, the nerves in your teeth become exposed, which causes your teeth to feel sensitive. Brush thoroughly, but gently to avoid experiencing sensitivity. A good practice is to remember that the bristles of your brush should gently touch your teeth. If they bend harshly or fray as you brush, you’re most likely brushing too hard.  If the bristles remain frayed or bent, it’s also time to change your tooth brush.  We recommend sticking to soft or extra soft bristles and avoiding medium and hard.  
  • Eating the Wrong Diet – Eating a balanced diet isn’t just important for your overall health, it’s extremely important for your oral health as well.  Consuming too much sugar can cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids that can erode your teeth, starting the cavity process. Likewise, consuming a diet high in acidic products can contribute to erosion of enamel.  After continuous exposure to these acids, the enamel can start to decalcify or soften, resulting in your teeth becoming sensitive as the nerves have become exposed. Try to keep sugary and acidic foods to a minimum as this can help reduce your risk of sensitive teeth.
  • Grinding & Clenching of Teeth – Many people unconsciously grind and clench their teeth, especially while they sleep. The condition is known as “Bruxism” and there are treatments for it such as night guards to help protect your teeth while you sleep. Grinding and clenching your teeth can wear down your enamel. Just like brushing too hard and eating harmful foods, grinding your teeth erodes away the enamel slowly over time and creates access to your nerves, ultimately resulting in sensitivity. Wearing a protective night guard can help prevent enamel breakdown while you sleep and could save you from developing sensitive teeth.
  • Cracked or Chipped Teeth – Teeth that are cracked or chipped can be particularly sensitive.  When a tooth is chipped for instance, the inner dentin layer is exposed to the outside environment.  Most stimuli in this instance will cause you to feel pain and sensitivity since the enamel is not there to mask and protect that cracked portion of the tooth anymore.  
  • Gum Disease – Gingivitis and periodontal disease can also cause tooth sensitivity.  The gum line often recedes with gum disease, exposing the root surface that was originally covered underneath the gums.  There is no protective enamel covering on the root surface of teeth, the dentin is now exposed to the oral environment and as a result, hypersensitivity ensues.
  • Teeth Whitening Products – While whitening your teeth may give you a beautiful smile, we caution patients on their extensive use which can lead to prolonged sensitivity.  In order to remove deep stains and brighten your teeth, whitening temporarily makes the enamel slightly more permeable (meaning things can easily pass through it).  This increase in permeability means the dentin gets more easily stimulated, which can trigger the nerves and cause sensitivity pain.  When done correctly, whitening is safe with no long term side affects to your teeth.  The more you whiten, the longer your teeth remain sensitive however. 

Treatment for Sensitive Teeth


We treat sensitive teeth using a variety of conservative methods.  Depending on the cause, we custom tailor your approach to eliminating the discomfort.  If the sensitivity is minor in nature, we may first simply suggest trying a desensitizing toothpaste such Sensodyne.  These toothpastes contain compounds that help block the dentin tubules and prevent sensation traveling from the tooth surface to the nerve.  Desensitizing toothpastes usually require several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.

if the desensitizing toothpastes does not ease your discomfort, we may advice a fluoride gel application to be applied to the teeth in question.  The fluoride will help remineralize, or re-harden, the enamel and create a better seal over the dentin in areas where the enamel may have started to erode or decalcify.

When these measures do not correct the problem, or if we identify a particular area of concern such as teeth with significant gum recession or portions of the enamel missing due to chipping and wear, we may recommend other restorative treatments in nature.  In the case of gum recession, we can simply apply a layer of tooth colored bonding to the exposed root structure and seal it off.  This process is simple, noninvasive, does not involve any drilling of teeth and has a high rate of success in relieving the pain.  If the tooth in question exhibits a flaw in the enamel or evidence of decay, we will then recommend placing a conservative tooth colored filling to correct the damage and stop any disease process that may be present.  In both instances, the above treatments also have the added benefit of cosmetically enhancing the appearance of the teeth while correcting the defect responsible for your symptoms.


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