One of the most common dental problems that people face is tooth sensitivity. While not everyone will suffer from sensitive teeth, those who do typically have worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots that leave their mouths vulnerable to sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity often worsens when consuming hot or cold foods and beverages. Some ways to treat this issue is by using desensitizing toothpaste, increasing your fluoride intake to strengthen tooth enamel and using a mouthguard at night if you grind your teeth.
Have you ever had sharp pain when drinking coffee or hot chocolate? What about pain when you open your mouth outside in the cold winter air? These are common problems that many of our patients experience, and there are many reasons for the tooth sensitivity. The main causes include:
Can you see a darker layer of your tooth under the enamel? This is the “dentin” layer of your tooth, or the middle layer. In patients that have thinning teeth, the inner dentin layer will start to show through. The top layer of the teeth is called the “enamel”. This is made of hard-packed minerals that help protect your teeth from bacteria and moisture. However, depending on the sugary or acidic foods you consume, your teeth can become thin over time.
That thinning will cause tooth sensitivity to happen easier because there is a smaller enamel layer protecting your teeth. The teeth are made up of 96% hard-packed minerals. Those minerals can get stripped away by acidic plaque and acids such as carbonic acid (in sodas/sparkling waters) and citric acid (in citrus fruits and drinks). When sugars in your food mix with bacteria in the mouth, it also creates an acidic substance called “plaque”. This is the main substance that causes tooth decay, or areas of your teeth to die. The more sugar you eat, the more plaque your mouth makes and the weaker your teeth become, causing infection and tooth sensitivity.
If you have tooth sensitivity, but it feels more like tooth pain, you may have a different type of problem. The teeth may feel sore or may hurt to chew on if you have temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) or bruxism. The temporomandibular joint is the joint bone on either side of your face close to your ears. This hinge allows the mouth to open and close properly, and it connects to your mandible, or mouth.
Millions of people develop pain in the temporomandibular joint. It could be due to arthritis, weakness, jaw injuries, or clenching/grinding your teeth at night. You will know you have TMJ and not just tooth sensitivity if you have symptoms such as headaches, jaw joint pain, neck pain, insomnia, ear congestion, and dizziness.
Bruxism is the technical term used to describe the clenching of your jaw at night or grinding your teeth. This happens at night, generally in the early stages of your sleep. Most patients don’t even know that they clench their teeth or grind them at night, but a dentist can see the erosion of the teeth that these actions cause. You want to be fitted for a mouth guard at night if you have bruxism, as this condition can lead to cracking and breaking your teeth, tooth erosion and chronic tooth sensitivity. TMJ will also require a custom-made mouth guard, which your dentist can make for you.
Here are some at-home tips you can employ to help manage your tooth sensitivity:
Have tooth sensitivity? We can help! If your tooth sensitivity stems from your tooth root being exposed, we have products we can paint on your teeth to help seal them from hot and cold. When cavities are your issue, we can provide the best dental methods of removal and building your teeth back up strong. To schedule your consultation, call Dr. Robert Berry at Mountain Aire Dentistry at (303) 731-7755!