Some of us know that feeling. We bite into a big hunk of Cherry Garcia or take a swig of coffee and our teeth feel like they've been hit with an electric cattle prod. It can even happen on cold days when we take in a breath of frigid air.
Ouch! That hurts.
Ask Your Dentist About Your Sensitive Teeth
If that's a sensation with which you're familiar, you're not alone. Forty million adults in the US suffer from sensitive teeth according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
The solution to could be as basic as filling a cavity or fixing up an old filling -- your dentist can determine the cause. However, if your sensitivity is a result of gum loss that exposes the root's surface, you're in a little bit deeper.
Many Reasons Exist for Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth get activated when the enamel is worn down or the gums recede enough that the dentin, the middle layer of the tooth, gets exposed. This soft layer has thousands of tiny tubes that lead to the tooth's nerves, which is what gets triggered when cold, hot, or sometimes even sweet gets in there.
Teeth can also become sensitive as a result of aggressive brushing, gum disease, teeth grinding, eating too many acidic foods, or any kind of damage that could lead to a buildup of bacteria or plaque.
Maintain Good Oral Habits
Conscientious oral care like brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and regular flossing should keep your teeth and gums healthy enough that they don't react.
But if they do, you can try using a desensitizing toothpaste or a fluoridated mouthwash. At the same time, cut back on carbonated beverages, yogurt, and citrus fruit, which are high in acid. If you can't bear to retire your lunchtime Diet Coke, use a straw to limit its contact with your teeth's surfaces.
If you're a nighttime grinder, your dentist can fit you with a mouth guard that will stop you from unconsciously wearing down your teeth. Dental sealants and fluoride washes can also be applied to protect the exposed root.
If none of these early efforts is effective, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for a gum tissue transfer or to do a root canal.
This kind of sensitivity tends to only affect a single tooth at a time, and sensitivity to cold is much more common that to hot. In some cases, if your teeth react to hot foods or drinks and not cold, it means the nerve is dying and a root canal is the only option.
If your sensitive teeth are getting in the way of enjoying your life, see what your dentist can do to help you. Who knows? You may be able to stop at the ice cream parlor on your way home.