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Tooth Sensitivity--Causes, Symptoms, When To Seek Treatment

Woman with Sensitive Tooth

The most common complaint of any patient coming into a dental office these days is tooth sensitivity. Quite often, persistent sensitivity can even affect what we choose to eat and drink, and then it becomes more than just an annoying issue. Tooth sensitivity serves as an indicator that something more serious is afoot.

Being aware of tooth sensitivity and pain and being able to convey the issue to your dental care provider will assist them in diagnosing the cause of your pain and thereby providing the treatment needed to eliminate the symptoms. Learning to safeguard your mouth against potential decay and distress proactively will allow you to enjoy feasting in comfort. Let's look at some of the things that may be causing sensitivity, and then discuss how to alleviate this distressing condition.

Symptoms Of Tooth Sensitivity

Man with Sensitive Teeth

Symptoms of tooth sensitivity can include painful twinges, tingling or burning sensations along the gumline, and other uncomfortable aching feelings that make it hard to eat, drink, or even speak. These symptoms can be fleeting, or they can last up to several hours at a time, depending on the severity of your inflammation. Other indicators that your mouth is at risk for more severe conditions include red and swollen gums, chipped or cracked teeth, and sores, or lesions, inside the mouth. All of these signs point to problems that most probably will become more serious and expensive to correct if not addressed promptly.

Causes Of Tooth Sensitivity

  • You may be eating and drinking overly acidic foods. If the hardened outer layer of enamel is already starting to wear away due to your dietary choices, you may be getting deeper into the soft tissues and nerve endings of your teeth. When the tissues in your mouth become exposed to highly acidic or sugary foods, it can cause irritation and sensitivity. Do what you can to modify your diet and include nutrient-rich whole foods that are low in sugar. If you must have something that you know is high in sugar or highly acidic, follow up your snack with an additional trip to the bathroom to brush any residue off your teeth.

  • Bleaching or whitening your teeth may make your mouth more prone to sensitivity to hot and cold; even whitening agents in some kinds of toothpaste are known to cause tooth sensitivity. If you have areas of discomfort in your mouth, consider first a trip to your dentist for a proper diagnosis before any further efforts to bleach or whiten. Bright smiles are beautiful, but only when on healthy teeth.

  • Tooth grinding is another cause of painful tooth sensitivity. Whether you grind by night or by day, the friction of your teeth grinding together causes protective enamel to wear down, exposing those more sensitive inner structures and making them more prone to disease and decay. If you suspect that you are experiencing pain due to grinding your teeth, talk to your dental care provider about finding a guard that will stop any further damage to teeth.

  • If you have dental pain and sensitivity, you may be brushing your teeth too vigorously. Brushing too hard, or even using a toothbrush with stiff bristles increases the likelihood that you are wearing away enamel and also causing gums to recede. Consider switching to a toothbrush with softer bristles, and adopt a more gentle touch when caring for your teeth.

  • Excessive plaque buildup on teeth can also cause pain and discomfort. When sticky plaque sits on your teeth for too long, it can wear away enamel and make its way into soft tissue. Cavities form as a result of plaque making its way into vulnerable areas of the tooth. The most effective way to keep plaque at bay is to maintain a regular brushing and flossing schedule, and remember to visit your dental care professionals at least twice a year for deep cleaning.

  • Teeth also become sensitive when gums are inflamed. Receding gums and gingivitis, an inflammation of gum tissue, tend to aggravate nerves under and around teeth. This issue is more common as we age, especially if we have not been diligent about maintaining good oral care habits. Fortunately, dentists have protocols of care for diseased and inflamed gum tissue, and many conditions can be lessened or eliminated entirely with proper care.

Man Getting Checkup at the Dentist

When To Seek Treatment For Sensitivity When experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is a good idea to discuss areas of discomfort with your dental professional to obtain a proper diagnosis. If your problem persists for longer than two weeks, or if it worsens over time, it will be necessary to seek treatment to find the underlying cause of your sensitivity. Pain is your body's signal that something needs attention; talk to your dental professional about what your needs are, and let them create a treatment plan for you.

At Park Street Dental, your concerns are our top priority. We are experts at "Gentle Dentistry," and will design an innovative treatment plan that will improve your dental health and overall well-being. Visit for more information and to set up an appointment. Let us help you create your healthiest smile yet!

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