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How Do Teeth Become Sensitive?

So how do teeth become Sensitive?

Basically, tooth sensitivity is caused when the protective enamel on your teeth begins to wear away. Underneath the outer enamel are microscopic tubes that lead to a bundle of nerves. When these tiny tubes become exposed, the result is painful sensitivity to hot and cold beverages. Sweet and sour tastes can also trigger a reaction. There are a number of reasons why this eroding of the protective surface occurs. Normal aging is the main cause, but tooth sensitivity can also be caused by trauma like biting down on a popcorn kernel, or recent dental work.
Below are the top 5 reasons for tooth sensitivity:

  1. Brushing too hard. It goes against what people are taught when they are children, but brushing too aggressively can wear down the outer protective layer of teeth.
  2. Grinding your teeth. Also called bruxism, teeth grinding is a common reason for enamel erosion. Fortunately, there are mouth guards that can help.
  3. Whitening toothpaste. If a whiter than white smile is what you are after, you might think about getting it some other way. Whitening toothpaste contains chemicals that are generally not good for your teeth and most over-the-counter products damage teeth in the long run.
  4. Excess plaque. Plaque is a by-product of the bacteria that lives in your mouth and, over time, it can build up on your teeth. If too much plaque accumulates on your teeth, it can compromise the protective covering. Avoid plaque build-up by practicing proper dental hygiene and having your teeth professionally cleaned.
  5. High acidity. High acid diets wreak havoc on teeth. When acidic substances are allowed to remain on teeth, they work to gradually dissolve the protective enamel. Acidic foods include citrus fruit, pickled foods, and processed foods. And yes, coffee and tea are acidic, as well.

So What Can I Do to Reduce Sensitivity

If you are plagued with sensitivity, take heart. There are things you can do to improve the condition. Proper dental hygiene is critical because it reduces harmful bacteria which can increase sensitivity and lead to decay. Here are some other steps to take:

  • Brush after meals. Especially if you eat a high-acid diet, it’s important to brush and floss after every meal to preserve the enamel on your teeth.
  • Use a soft-bristle brush. Cleaning your teeth does not take a lot of abrasion. It is much more effective to gently brush often than to harshly brush less frequently.
  • Desensitizing toothpaste. According to the American Dental Association, these products sold over-the-counter have specialized compounds in them that can effectively block the sensations to the nerve of the tooth. It may take several uses, but desensitizing toothpaste works for some people.
  • Ask your dentist. If you continue to have tooth sensitivity, ask your dentist about procedures that help alleviate the problem. One such procedure involves the application of a dental sealer that effectively seals off the exposed nerve.

When teeth become sensitive, it’s because the outer layer of the tooth called the enamel has worn away and exposed the nerve-laden layer underneath called the dentin. Follow these additional tips to preserve your enamel and reduce tooth sensitivity.

Click here for more information about seeing our hygienists, Lisa and Louise.

You can also read more about how to strengthen sensitive teeth in one of our other blogs.

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