What causes tooth sensitivity? – dentist near UCSD

What causes tooth sensitivity? – dentist near UCSD

As a premier dentist near UCSD, this is one of the more common questions that we hear. Many people find that their teeth are sensitive in response to cold, heat, certain foods, or touch. What causes this sensitivity, and what can people do to increase their comfort?

Causes of sensitivity

There are a number of different causes of tooth sensitivity.

Thinning of the enamel

Beneath the enamel, teeth are made of dentin. Dentin is full of microscopic tubules, with nerve endings encased within the tubules. Nerve endings are sensitive, and any irritation of the nerve endings may lead to pain. Enamel helps to protect the nerve endings from being activated by cold, heat, or other factors. Beneath the gumline, the dentin is protected by a substance called cementum. Cementum is not as hard as enamel, and therefore provides less protection for the nerve endings.

Irritation of the nerve endings leads to discomfort. Having thinner or weaker enamel makes it more likely that the nerve endings will be affected by things such as temperature. This can be caused by using certain whitening products, eating a lot of acidic foods (such as citrus), or using acidic mouthwashes. Genetics also plays a role, with some people having enamel that’s thinner or more porous than others.

Exposure of the roots

In addition, because cementum is not as hard as enamel, the roots of the teeth are more sensitive than the main part of the tooth. When the roots are completely covered by the gums, they’re protected. However, if the gums recede, then the roots will be uncovered. Because of this, the teeth will feel more sensitive.

One common cause of gum recession is grinding or clenching the teeth. In addition, the gums may recede from forces placed on them during toothbrushing. Using a stiff-bristled toothbrush, or pressing on the teeth too hard while brushing, can cause the gums to pull away from the roots of the teeth. Another cause of gum recession is periodontitis, or gum disease, in which bacteria cause inflammation in the gum tissue.

Dental treatments

Teeth may also be sensitive after a dental treatment, such as a filling. This is temporary, and will usually go away within a few days. If it persists for longer than two weeks, let your dentist know.

Treatment of tooth sensitivity

The first step in reducing sensitivity is to find and treat any underlying conditions, if possible. For instance, if teeth are sensitive due to grinding the teeth at night, a nightguard may help. This is a custom-made plastic mouthpiece that fits between the teeth to protect them from damage due to grinding. Changing your toothbrushing habits, including using a soft-bristled toothbrush and applying gentle pressure while brushing, primarily moving the toothbrush perpendicular to each tooth rather than pressing into the tooth’s surface, can also be helpful.

Once the health of the teeth and gums has been addressed, if the teeth are still sensitive, there are ways to help reduce the sensitivity. Some people benefit from having a fluoride treatment. This can help to strengthen the enamel, protecting the nerve endings in the dentin.

For some, it will help to use a toothpaste or rinse for sensitive teeth. These products contain substances that act to block the tubules, helping to protect the nerves and make the teeth less sensitive. There are some sensitivity products available over the counter, and there are others that you can get from your dentist.

Dentist near UCSD

Many students and faculty at UC San Diego are interested in finding a dentist near UCSD to take care of their dental needs. La Jolla Center for Advanced Dentistry is conveniently located just down the street from the UCSD campus. We offer advanced dental technology along with an old-fashioned personal touch. We’re a family dental office, with experience in treating the whole age range from young children to older adults. To schedule your appointment, contact our office.

La Jolla Center for Advanced Dentistry
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