Many people in Manhattan and NY suffer from sensitive teeth. In some cases, teeth are sensitive to extremes of hot (such as coffee) or cold (such as ice cream). In other cases, certain areas of your teeth or gums can be painful, and routine activities such as brushing or flossing can be cause considerable pain. Painful sensations in the mouth are not normal and are usually an indicatation that something is wrong. Unfortunately, many patients suffer with these symptoms, mistakenly believing there is no cure for these sensations, when in fact your dentist may be able to offer solutions.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Teeth can become sensitive when a tooth’s layer of dentin is exposed. Dentin, the second layer of your teeth, is made up of calcified tissue and has millions of tiny tubules that lead to nerve endings.  Usually dentin is covered by either the gums or enamel (the top and hardest layer of the tooth) but when the dentin is left exposed — by tooth decay, enamel erosion, receding gums, worn fillings, or a damaged or fractured tooth — the tooth may become sensitive.

Anatomy of a Tooth

Beneath the dentin lies the pulp of the tooth.  Pulp is made up of living connective tissue and is packed with millions of nerves which are quite sensitive.  If the protective layers of enamel and dentin are breached, the pulp is left exposed and vulnerable to infection, which can cause severe pain in the tooth and surrounding area.  If left untreated, the tooth  will eventually die as it becomes unable to access nutrients and blood flow.  In some cases, the pain may stop when the tooth dies, but more often the infection may spread to other areas (including other parts of the body) and complications may result.  A dead tooth may turn dark, become loose in its socket, continue to be painful, or produce a foul odor. To prevent the death of a tooth, a root canal is needed to clean out the infected tissue and seal the tooth to prevent further decay.

Illustration of an Infected or Inflamed Tooth

Solutions to Sensitive Teeth

Flouride application: The application of flouride can help strengthen your enamel and dentin to prevent exposure of nerve-laden tissue.

Root canal: The infected pulp of a tooth is removed and the tooth sealed.  Often a crown is needed to help preserve what is left of the tooth.

Broken, cracked, or chipped teeth: Based on the severity of the damage, your dentist can repair or restore your tooth, place a crown, or extract the tooth.

Exposed roots: Your dentist can seal the exposed surfaces to block exposure to causes of sensitive teeth

Don’t brush so hard: Brushing your teeth too hard can also cause tooth sensitivity if you wear down the protective enamel of your teeth, so your dentist may recommend brushing more gently, for a shorter time, or with a softer toothbrush.

Tooth grinding, or bruxism: Your dentist may recommend an over-the-counter or custom-fit mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding at night.

Stop eating acidic foods: Avoid tomato sauce, lemon, grapefruit, kiwi, pickles, or other acidic food if they make your teeth sensitive.

Stop whitening: Teeth whitening or whitening toothpaste bleaches the dentin of your teeth, often resulting in teeth that are more sensitive.

Make A Dental Appointment

If you have any pain in your mouth, gums or teeth, visit your dentist as soon as possible.  An evaluation from a dental professional will help you make an informed choice so you can live a life without unnecessary pain.