Causes of Sensitive Teeth

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

There are several different causes of sensitive teeth, and they all have something to do with weakened or missing enamel.  Enamel should form a solid, protective coating over the more porous and sensitive underlying tooth structure called dentin.  Anything that thins or disrupts that solid coating puts the tooth at risk for sensitivity.

  1. Gum Recession and Root Exposure

Enamel does not cover the roots of teeth.  The roots should be covered by bone and gum tissue in order to hold each tooth in place and withstand heavy chewing forces.  When gum recession exposes the roots of teeth, it exposes the more sensitive underlying tooth structure that does not have the benefit of enamel’s protective and insulating coverage.

Exposed roots communicate more sensations to the nerve within the teeth than a healthy covered root does.

  1. Acid Erosion of Enamel

Another common problem we see quite often is acid erosion of the enamel.  Acid is the one thing that softens and weakens enamel.  When a tooth experiences a low pH in the mouth for long periods of time, the enamel actually erodes away.  As enamel gets thinner and thinner, it loses its effectiveness at insulating the nerve from the various sensations of eating and drinking.

Some people experience acid erosion as a result of severe acid reflux or GERD, and others consistently eat and drink highly acidic foods and beverages.  Regardless of the cause, acid erosion is very bad for your teeth.

  1. Cracked Teeth

A break in that solid layer of enamel, like a tooth crack or fracture, also allows the “external” sensations to reach the nerve within a tooth.  Cracked teeth can result from consistently heavy forces sustained over a long period of time, like those associated with nighttime teeth clenching and/or grinding.  They can also occur in a single incident of trauma.

In its earliest stages, a cracked tooth will usually cause consistent sensitivity to cold.  As the crack worsens, tenderness on chewing will develop.

  1. Cavities

The last thing that can interrupt the single, continuous coating of enamel on a tooth is a cavity.  Bacteria create decay in a tooth when they break through the tough, outer layer of enamel and begin progressing into the softer, underlying tooth structure.  These bacteria release toxins that travel through the tooth’s tiny pores toward the nerve, causing inflammation and even more sensitivity.

Because cavities are always the potential cause for sensitivity, you should see a dentist to rule them out before you try to treat the sensitivity itself.

Other Ways to Fight Sensitivity

By avoiding those foods and drinks, you will lower your risk of sensitive teeth and prevent it from getting worse over time.  You can also fight back at tooth sensitivity.  Because sensitivity develops when the enamel is weak or broken, you can work against it by strengthening and protecting your enamel.

Fluoride is the most prevalent ingredient in oral care products that strengthens enamel.  Studies show that fluoride makes enamel harder and more resistant to attacks from bacteria and acid.  When you see a product labeled “anti-cavity”, that means it is also anti-sensitivity because it contains fluoride.

You can also fight sensitivity by protecting your teeth from heavy forces that you could be putting on them at night.  If you clench and/or grind your teeth while you sleep, your dentist will be able to spot the evidence of it.  Preventing damage from nighttime teeth grinding is an extremely important way to keep enamel strong and healthy.  Most likely, your dentist will recommend a nighttime appliance to wear over your teeth that will separate and protect them from any clenching or grinding pressures.

More Questions About Sensitive Teeth?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our preventive dentists.  We will uncover the cause of your sensitivity and give you multiple options for treating it.