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Tooth Sensitivity: Overview, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Sensitive teeth are a surefire way to turn an enjoyable meal into a world of pain. And quickly. Imagine eating shave ice, and suddenly, out of nowhere, you're hit with pain coming into all angles of your teeth!

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

To understand sensitive teeth causes, let's take a little refresher on the parts of a tooth. There are three layers of the tooth: the enamel and cementum form the outermost layer, followed by the dentin, then the dental pulp. 

  • The outer layers (enamel and cementum) are usually harder and sturdier to protect the teeth from environmental threats. By limiting access to the whole tooth, these outer layers also help reduce the pain or tooth discomfort you might feel. The outer layer of the enamel also protects the tooth from acid in foods you eat.
  • The dental pulp is beneath the enamel, in the tooth's center. The pulp allows your teeth to be able to "feel".
  • Finally, the dentin is the mid-layer that forms most of the teeth. It sends the sensations through its network of hollow canals to the dental pulp. 

When it comes to what causes sensitive teeth, dentin plays a significant role. Because it's the layer of the tooth that transmits sensation, the more exposed it is, the more sensitive your teeth feel. And these sensitive teeth causes can vary. 

For some, tooth pain happens because of receding gums. Or tooth decay that's eaten through most of your tooth enamel. Or maybe a general thinning of the outer layers in general. Which of the home remedies for sensitive teeth you use, then, will depend on what causes sensitive teeth.  

Gum recession can also cause the exposure of the dentin, resulting in hypersensitivity. Brushing too hard may also lead to teeth sensitivity because it can wear the enamel. A recent dental procedure like a dental filling or teeth whitening session can temporarily cause mild tooth sensitivity.

The consumption of sugary and acidic foods causes oral bacteria's rapid growth. Over time, if not given attention, it can deteriorate the enamel and tooth decay. A cavity can also cause teeth sensitivity because it can result in the exposure of the dentin. Other causes of teeth sensitivity are teeth grinding and tooth fractures.

How Are Sensitive Teeth Diagnosed?

Dentin hypersensitivity is usually self-diagnosable. It is typically triggered by eating cold or hot food and drinks, sugary and sour foods, breathing in cold air, and brushing. When these activities cause sharp pain that worsens with pressure, there is a tendency that your teeth are sensitive.

How Sensitive Teeth Are Treated

Fortunately, teeth sensitivity is treatable and usually resolves a few weeks to a few months. A variety of treatments are also available upon the recommendation of the dentist. Usual treatments include desensitizing toothpaste, fluoride gel, crowns, inlays or bonding, surgical gum grafts, or root canals are available for the treatment of sensitive teeth,

  • Desensitizing toothpaste contains compounds that block the transmission of pain from the tooth's surface to the nerve.
  • Fluoride gel helps in strengthening the enamel. Thus, this helps prevent it from wearing away and exposing the dentin. Aside from this, fluoride gel reduces the transmission of discomfort.
  • A crown, inlay, or bonding is recommended to correct a decayed tooth.
  • A surgical gum graft will defend the root and reduce sensitivity if gum tissue has been lost from the root.
  • Your dentist may recommend a root canal if sensitivity has become severe and persistent.

Also, to prevent the worsening of teeth sensitivity, it is better to take precautions.

Home Remedies For Sensitive Teeth

While dentin exposure generally causes sensitive teeth, getting the right solution still depends on its exact reason. These reasons include:

  • Enamel wear or enamel erosion
  • Cavities
  • Chipped tooth
  • Receding gums

For the most part, tooth sensitivity should go away once you treat the exact cause. And, for the most part, a trip to the dental office should solve the problem. The more severe the reason, the more you need to book that appointment.

But what if you have a minor case of sensitive teeth? Or what if you can't see a dentist right away? In that case, your home remedies for sensitive teeth should stave it over for the moment. In the meantime, here's what you can do:

  • Use fluoride toothpaste. If you have a thin enamel case in its earliest stages, a dose of fluoride should help reverse the effects. And, consequently, make your teeth feel less sensitive. Better yet, use one with a desensitizing agent. 
  • Gargle some saltwater. Saltwater isn't just suitable for a sore throat or canker sores in the throat. Its anti-inflammatory properties can also reduce any swelling that comes with sensitive teeth causes. As a bonus, the salt can disinfect any areas affected by tooth decay. 

How To Prevent Sensitive Teeth?

Keeping the proper oral hygiene routine helps in fighting off sensitivity. Brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash is vital to oral health. If you are suffering from teeth grinding, you can opt for a mouth protector. Watch your diet by including teeth-healthy foods like celery, carrots, apples, and cheese, and avoid sugary and acidic foods.

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