A Practical Guide to get Rid of Tooth Sensitivity
There’s nothing like biting into a scoop of ice cream on a hot summer afternoon or sipping a hot cup of coffee on a chilly morning. But then it hits you―a sharp, electric pain.
Ouch!! Tooth sensitivity!
Today, your Grande Prairie dentist is here to talk about what tooth sensitivity is and what steps you can take to minimize it.
What is tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is discomfort or sharp pain from air and hot/cold food/drinks. If you have sensitive teeth then you’re likely avoiding anything too cold or hot because of the severe pain it causes.
Sensitivity happens because the porous layer of your teeth―the dentin―has microscopic pathways leading to nerves that are triggered by a stimulus (i.e. hot or cold food). Cavities can expose the dentin which makes your teeth sensitive.
If you can tell which tooth is sensitive, then you likely have local sensitivity. If there’s sensitivity in a larger area then you may have generalized sensitivity. In most cases, we can easily help you out after proper assessment of its cause.
Causes of tooth sensitivity
1. Brushing too hard
Overzealous brushing with a hard-bristle toothbrush can wear down the outer layer (enamel) of your tooth. It can also injure gum tissue which exposes the part of your tooth covered by your gum, causing sensitivity.
2. Gum diseases
Gum diseases, like gingivitis, can cause gum tissue to move away from your teeth which exposes the underlying root and causes sensitivity. Poor oral health, especially improper removal of dental plaque is the most common cause of gum conditions.
3. Cracked or decayed tooth
Broken teeth and cavities can get rid of the exterior layer of the tooth and expose the underlying dentin or pulp tissue. When dentin or pulp tissue are exposed, your teeth become sensitive!
4. Dental treatments
Sensitivity can happen after dental work like ultrasonic scaling, fillings, crown placement, and teeth whitening. Sensitivity after your dental visit is normal and should be gone in one to two weeks.
5. Tooth grinding
If you grind your teeth at night then you may have a condition known as bruxism. Teeth grinding can scrape off your enamel and cause sensitivity.
6. Using the wrong mouthwash or toothpaste
Some over-the-counter mouthwashes and toothpastes, especially those that claim to remove stains and make your teeth whiter, contain chemicals that can damage teeth and cause sensitivity.
GERD and tooth sensitivity
Sensitivity can happen from a digestive disorder called Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
GERD occurs when stomach contents (mainly acid) reflux back into the esophagus and mouth. That acid can wear away the enamel on your teeth and expose the underlying dentin which causes sensitivity.
You may want to talk to your Grande Prairie physician if you have GERD.
Tooth sensitivity after dental fillings
You may have sensitive teeth after a dental filling. This should improve on its own, but if it doesn’t then you may need to come back to the dentist.
For example, sometimes the restoration is too high, preventing the upper and lower teeth from fitting together properly. This causes excess pressure on the filled tooth while biting and may cause sensitivity. We would trim the high spots to fix your bite and eliminate discomfort.
Another reason could be a deep cavity. Removal of decay close to the nerve may irritate the nerves inside the tooth. With time, the sensitivity can subside, but other times the nerve is not able to repair itself and you’ll want to see us.
Tooth sensitivity after crown cementation
A dental crown is recommended after a large filling has been placed to prevent further complications. It’s not uncommon to have sensitivity afterwards. Before placing the crown, we may need to remove some portion of your natural tooth to make space for the crown. This can cause the inner layer of the tooth to be exposed which can lead to sensitivity.
It may take a few days for your tooth to adjust to the crown and for the sensitivity to go away. However, please talk to us if you notice tooth infection, allergic reactions, or sensitivity with pain for a longer period of time.
People with sensitive teeth may have the following symptoms:
- A sharp painful sensation in response to hot/cold food/drinks and air
- Mild twinge to considerable discomfort
- Severe localized or general pain in the mouth
Diagnosing sensitive teeth
For proper diagnosis, we’ll ask you about the nature, timing, and frequency of your pain, your diet, and other habits/medical conditions. We may lightly tap on or blow cold air on your teeth to try and find which tooth is sensitive. Some other quick tests can also be done to check the vitality of tooth pulp.
Treating tooth sensitivity
The treatment for tooth sensitivity depends on the underlying cause and can be preventive or surgical.
- Maintaining good oral health
- Following a proper brushing technique
- Changing your toothpaste to one that targets sensitive teeth
- Using a toothbrush with soft-bristles
- Brushing your teeth gently to avoid abrasion
- Avoiding acidic foods and drinks
- Reducing stress to minimize teeth grinding
Dental procedures for sensitivity:
- Using desensitizing agents to block the exposed dentin tubes
- Customized mouth guard to protect against night grinding
- Applying fluoride varnishes to the exposed dentin or at-home use of recommended dental products that contain potassium salts and fluoride
- Dental filling
- Root canal treatment
- Surgical gum grafts to cover the exposed roots
Cost of treating tooth sensitivity in Grande Prairie
We understand that the cost of your treatment is important to you. Pricing can really vary depending on the underlying cause and required treatment. We want to help and we’re happy to work with you on a proper treatment plan that fits your budget. Wapiti Dental follows the Alberta dental fee guide and we can check your insurance coverage and provide upfront pricing before treatment.
Get rid of sensitivity, and say yes to your favourite seasonal treat once again!