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What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

//What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

digital illustration of sensitive teethAt Metropolitan Dental Care, we offer a number of dental treatments to address a wide range of concerns. Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that many of our patients experience. What causes this condition, and how can it be treated? During a dental visit in Lone Tree, our doctors can help you identify the root cause of tooth sensitivity and recommend treatments to remedy the problem.

About Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitivity, or heightened feeling in the teeth, can occur for different reasons. For example, tenderness may occur when biting or chewing. Sensitivity may also be present when eating sweets. One of the most common types of sensitivity, however, occurs when the teeth are exposed to extreme heat or cold. This can become a nuisance and can develop into severe discomfort if not treated.

What Causes Sensitivity to Heat and Cold?

Every patient is different. Therefore, the specific cause for tooth sensitivity can vary for each individual. However, there are three primary culprits, including:

  • Exposure of the dentinal tubules: Underneath the enamel – the outermost surface of a tooth – there is a layer of dentin. This substance contains tiny pores, referred to as dentin tubules. These small tube-like structures lead directly to the pulp chamber, which contains nerves and blood vessels. Therefore, whenever the dentin is exposed, there is a higher risk for heat and cold to travel through the tubules to the pulp of the tooth, resulting in sensitivity.
  • Cracks or fractures: If a tooth becomes damaged, then heat and cold from the foods and beverages consumed are more likely to travel to the pulp chamber. Dentin and enamel both shield the inner structure of a tooth. When these protective layers are compromised, it can result in acute sensitivity.
  • Root exposure: Sometimes, the gums can recede or pull away from the teeth. This may be due to trauma, gum disease, naturally thin tissue, or another factor. Rather than being covered in enamel, the roots are covered in cementum – a material that helps bind the tooth to the supporting ligaments. Unfortunately, cementum is not as resilient as enamel. Therefore, when the roots of the teeth are exposed, sensitivity can occur.

Other Considerations

Now that we’ve explored the causes of tooth sensitivity, let’s take a look at the factors that can trigger or exacerbate this condition. Heat and cold sensitivity could occur as a result of:

  • Teeth whitening: For many patients, the dentin tubules are affected by the bleaching agent in whitening gels. However, this side effect is usually temporary, and typically diminishes in a week or two.
  • Tooth decay: Just as cracks and fractures can lead to sensitivity, decay can as well. When a cavity is present, it compromises the tooth structure and makes it more vulnerable to sensitivity.
  • Gum recession: As aforementioned, patients with gum recession tend to experience much more sensitivity than those without the condition.

How to Prevent and Manage Tooth Sensitivity

To prevent enamel erosion, be sure to use an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste and ask your hygienist about topical fluoride treatments as well. This can effectively remineralize the surfaces of the teeth, making them more resilient to damage and sensitivity.

If your sensitivity is due to root exposure or gum recession, ask your doctor about possible treatment options during your dental visit in Lone Tree. Depending on the severity of your recession, dental restorations, such as fillings or crowns, may be recommended. However, if the gum tissue is particularly thin, a gum grafting procedure will most likely be appropriate.

Schedule Your Dental Visit in Lone Tree Today

Are you experiencing tooth sensitivity? We invite you to schedule a dental visit in Lone Tree. We can help address your issue and prevent further problems. Our Lone Tree dentists also serve Denver, Centennial, Highlands Ranch, and Parker. To reach us, contact us online or call us at 303-534-2626.

2018-06-21T06:28:02+00:00