Having sensitive teeth is often a lifelong burden that causes pain when a person eats or drinks something hot or cold. However, people who experience tooth sensitivity can often experience pain even when eating sweet or spicy foods, or just breathing cold air.
Tooth sensitivity happens as a result of enamel damage, therefore exposing the softer tissues of the tooth. These in turn carry the food’s temperature to the inside of your tooth. How does this happen? Here’s everything you need to know about sensitive teeth and tooth nerve pain.
It’s All about the Dentin
Sensitive teeth occur because the dentin—a softer layer of tissue below your enamel—is exposed. This means your enamel has been worn away in that area, leaving the dentin to be exposed to foods, drinks, and air that enters your mouth.
Dentin is an important element of our teeth. It contains tiny channels that carry the temperature of the tooth to the nerves that lay inside the tooth. These nerves are also known as the tooth’s pulp. Normally the dentin would not be exposed—so it wouldn’t carry the temperature to your tooth pulp. However, once it is exposed, you can’t just turn off the microscopic tubes that carry temperature to your inner tooth. Dentin is the link that connects your tooth sensitivity to temperature to the nerve inside the tooth, which in turn triggers pain.
How Roots Become Exposed
There are a number of ways that your tooth’s dentin and roots become exposed. Often, people who have sensitive teeth experience a combination of factors that lead to their tooth pain. Your tooth’s root is protected by enamel, but can become exposed when enamel gets worn away. Enamel is the hardest substance in the body, but unfortunately, the body does not replace it once it’s gone. Enamel erosion can happen from:
Abuse of over-the- counter tooth whitening products
Brushing your teeth too aggressively
Bruxism (teeth grinding)
These are just a few of the items that can damage your enamel. You could also have a fractured tooth or gum recession, which can expose dentin and tooth roots.
What Can You Do?
Simply switching to a toothbrush with softer bristles and desensitizing toothpaste can help many people control their tooth sensitivity and avoid further enamel erosion. If you have severe tooth sensitivity, you may need additional treatment to help manage your pain. This includes getting treatment for bruxism if you grind your teeth, or you may have a cavity that needs to get filled, or a fractured tooth that needs repairing. Your treatment will be unique based on what’s causing your tooth sensitivity. Your dentist can help you discover what the problem is and how to treat it.
Don’t live with tooth nerve pain! Although replacing enamel is impossible, your problem may be gum recession or a simple cavity that can be fixed. Seeing your dentist can help address your tooth pain and find out where it’s coming from. Remember to always protect your enamel with gentle brushing, avoiding acidic foods like sugar, and visiting your dentist!