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Have you ever winced with sudden pain after gulping an icy beverage or slurping a spoonful of hot soup? If so, you’re likely one of the 40 million Americans the Academy of General Dentistry estimates experience tooth sensitivity each year.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity (i.e., dentin hypersensitivity) occurs when tooth enamel wears away, leaving the dentin exposed. This soft, inner part of your tooth houses thousands of microscopic channels that, when left unprotected, allow stimuli to reach the nerves causing pain.
Some people naturally have more sensitive teeth due to having thinner enamel. However, in many cases, tooth enamel can be worn down from:
Anything that leaves sections of the tooth exposed and unprotected can lead to sensitivity. This includes gum recession, tooth decay, and broken or chipped teeth. Temporary sensitivity may also occur after dental work like fillings, crowns, or teeth bleaching. There are also medical conditions that can lead to tooth sensitivity. For example, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) can cause acid to come up from the stomach and esophagus, which deteriorate tooth enamel over time. Similarly, conditions that cause frequent vomiting, such as gastroparesis and bulimia, can result in acid erosion.
Symptoms of tooth sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity can cause temporary or chronic pain in a single tooth, several teeth, or throughout your mouth. If you have sensitive teeth, everyday foods and drinks can unexpectedly trigger a jolt of nerve pain. It’s common for people with sensitive teeth to experience pain or discomfort at the roots of the affected teeth in response to certain triggers, such as:
Symptoms can range from mild to intense and may come and go periodically for no apparent reason.
How is tooth sensitivity treated?
There are several at-home and in-office treatments that can provide relief to sensitive teeth. Depending on the cause and severity the sensitivity, your dentist will likely recommend one or more of the following treatments:
While tooth sensitivity is not uncommon, pain can be an indication of a more serious dental problem. If you’re experiencing sensitivity, please call our office. We’ll evaluate your specific symptoms and determine the best treatment to help relieve the pain.