Tooth Sensitivity: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Apparently, it’s Polar Vortex season – and for some – this first cold blast of 2019 has their teeth on edge with tooth sensitivity. If your mouth is feeling the effects too, you’re not alone. Worn tooth enamel is considered “the common cold” of dental complaints.

Researchers find that 10 to 30% of the population experiences dentinal hypersensitivity. Layered beneath the protective enamel of your teeth, the dentin contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When tooth enamel wears away, these tubes allow heat and cold to stimulate the nerves and cells inside the tooth, causing sensitivity. While acidic and sticky foods can also work as triggers, chilly air provides a surefire clue.

Tip of the Iceberg
Sensitive teeth can be a (literal) pain, but they can also alert you and your dentist to a number of potential underlying causes beyond worn enamel. These include:

  • Microscopic fractures or larger cracks in the teeth
  • Cavities or decay around the edges of existing fillings
  • Teeth grinding
  • Receding gums
  • TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder (TMD)

These Simple Steps May Relieve Your Pain

  • Breathe through your nose in extreme cold.
  • Rinse with a fluoride mouthwash two to three times per day. This can help to seal cold-sensitive teeth.
  • Avoid teeth grinding. If you do grind or clench your teeth, use a mouth guard at night.
  • Brush twice a day with a soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Use a potassium nitrate desensitizing toothpaste; the effect is cumulative and most people see improvement in two to three weeks.
  • Remember to brush gently. Aggressive brushing can cause tooth enamel to wear away.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene. As always, continue to follow proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Treatment Options: Not One-Size-Fits-All
If intense pain lasts for more than three or four days, a visit to Surf City Dental is in order. The type of recommended treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity.

Most tooth sensitivity stems from either erosive tooth wear or gum recession.

Commonly used in-practice desensitizing agents include:

  • High-concentration fluoride (Fluoride concentration in toothpastes and rinses purchased over-the-counter don’t prove as effective.)
  • Metallic salts
  • Varnishes
  • Sealants
  • Desensitizing or bonding agents may be an option if an exposed root is the culprit.

Rest assured, we will steer you toward the least invasive treatment option to ease that winter chill.

tooth sensitivity