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  • Writer's pictureDr. Pearl E. Whites

My Teeth are so Sensitive!!

Updated: Aug 18, 2022

You cup your tongue over the ice cream to protect it from touching your teeth. You definitely don’t put ice in your drinks, and when you brush your teeth you leave the water running until it is lukewarm. Sound familiar? All these learned habits stem from preventing anything cold from touching your teeth to prevent jolting pain that rocks your world for several seconds. Why do so many Americans suffer from hypersensitive teeth when you brush twice a day and you feel you do everything you think you’re supposed to caring for your teeth?  

jpeg of sensitive tooth to cold
My teeth are SO sensitive to cold!

Question #1: What causes sensitive teeth?

The reasons are numerous: active tooth decay, failing dental work, gum loss, mouth piercings, poor oral hygiene, and many other factors. If all those are ruled out, then the question is simple to answer. Think of the inside of your tooth more like a honeycomb and less like a granite countertop surface. The tooth’s dentin, inside layer is made up of tiny tubes that allow fluids to flow. When fluids flow through the tooth it puts pressure on the nerve fibers stimulating a “pain” message to your brain. The more tubes there are in the teeth exposed to outside stimuli the more vulnerable it is to cold, which explains why some with naturally healthy teeth really avoid eating ice cream.

When irritants pass through these tubes they pinch the nerves and cause teeth sensitivity
Teeth Dentinal Tubules (zoomed in)

Question #2: What do I do that may cause teeth sensitivity?

We do certain things that cause sensitivity whether we realize it or not. For example, toothpastes designated for tartar control or whitening are very abrasive and make our teeth sensitive. Teeth bleaching products also heighten sensitivity. If we have a very acidic diet or snack a lot then our teeth are being bombarded with cavity-inducing bacteria. Finally, if we haven’t had a dental cleaning since the previous Super Bowl, imagine all that plaque and tartar having a party on your teeth that is more destructive than Woodstock.

Tartar built up

Question #3: I just had a filling and my tooth is ultra sensitive. My dentist says it’s a good filling so why does it hurt so much?

As a teenager I would think of my dentist more than my girlfriend or what I was going to eat next. The reason being my silver fillings were always so sensitive that biting into anything or having a fork touch my tooth would send me to the moon; hence my thinking of Dr. Baker constantly. Thank goodness for advances in science! Make sure your dentist today places a simple conditioner on your tooth prior to doing that filling or crown. It’s an antibacterial solution that not only disarms microscopic bacteria under the filling, but practically eliminates any hypersensitivity associated with that dental work.

Silver fillings or crowns can be sensitive at times because of iatrogenic means
Large Silver Fillings

Question #4: How hard is it to fix sensitive teeth -- is it something people need to see their dentists for? 

Talk with your dentist first to rule out alternative causes like decay, infection, etc.

Start with the most conservative treatment first when it comes to treating dental sensitivity. Brush and floss daily, visit your dentist for a regular dental cleaning, and snack less. Use desensitizing toothpastes like Sensodyne that have potassium nitrate. Strong, fluoridated prescription toothpaste from your dentist would be the next step if desensitizing toothpastes do not work. Chew gum with the main ingredient “xylitol.” If those steps are unsuccessful then your dentist can place a palliative conditioner and bonding agent that can desensitize the teeth.

Dr. Nelson and the dental team of Central Point Family Dentistry
Your Dental Team at Central Point Family Dentistry

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