Do hot or cold foods or beverages cause a brief, painful sensation in your teeth?
Do you have to drink through a straw or touch your teeth with your tongue in order to prevent cold liquids from hurting your teeth?
Do you experience a short-lived pain in your teeth when you breathe in cold air through your mouth?

If any of these things sound familiar, you may be experiencing sensitive teeth, and in this two-part blog series from our dentist in Sarasota, we’d like to cover the information you should know about sensitive teeth.

Understanding Tooth Sensitivity

The outer layer of your teeth is called enamel, which is the hardest substance in the human body. Underneath the enamel, you have a tooth substance called dentin, and buried deeper still, you have what is called the pulp, which has nerve endings and blood vessels in it.

Dentin has millions of tiny tubes that lead directly to the dental pulp. Therefore, if your dentin gets exposed for any reason, the nerves in your teeth will start to feel it.

Just like your fingertip can tell that something is hot, cold, soft, or rough because of the nerve endings in you skin, your tooth can do the same thing.

Tooth sensitivity may be mild or severe, and it may be localized to one tooth or one area or extend to several or all of your teeth.

Causes of Tooth Sensitivity

Knowing what causes sensitive teeth is a big part of being able to prevent it from happening or treat it successfully. Anything that compromises or erodes your tooth enamel can put you at risk of developing sensitive teeth.

Here are some of the main causes of sensitive teeth.

  • Cavities
  • A cracked tooth (tooth fractures)
  • Gum disease that causes gums to recede from tooth roots, exposing the dentin at the base of your teeth
  • Frequent consumption of acidic or carbonated beverages
  • Over-brushing teeth or using a toothbrush with bristles that are too hard
  • Using a toothpaste that contains abrasives
  • Tooth-whitening treatments (many of these products contain bleaching agents; read the label to see if it warns of tooth sensitivity developing).
  • Poor oral hygiene, leading to plaque and tartar buildup
  • Teeth grinding (bruxism) or clenching
  • Acid reflux disease that brings stomach acids to the mouth
  • Biting hard materials (e.g. ice cubes, hard candy, pencils)
  • A dental crown or filling that has come off
  • Bulimia
  • Pregnancy-related gingivitis

While the primary cause of tooth sensitivity is the erosion of your enamel, in some cases, it can also be due to other causes. Common tooth sensitivity is called Dentinal Hypersensitivity, but there is also a cause of sensitivity called Frictional Dental Hypersensitivity (FDH) that could be causing your sensitive teeth. In Frictional Dental Hypersensitivity, you experience excessive tightness in your temporalis, masseter, and digastric muscles, which are the muscles that perform the chewing motion in your mouth. If you have trouble eating crunchy or chewy foods, feel that your jaw and cheek muscles are often tight, or notice that chewing gum or chewy foods makes your jaw tired, it can indicate that FDH might be causing you to experience tooth sensitivity.

When you visit Dr. Colkmire, he can evaluate your symptoms and give you a recommended plan for your sensitive teeth. Schedule your appointment today.