Why are your teeth sensitive?

Do you ever feel a sudden painful sensation in your teeth when you drink hot coffee or eat cold ice cream?

Perhaps eating candy or sour foods makes you cringe.

Or maybe simply touching your teeth with a fork or toothbrush makes you jump with pain.

Do you have to let the water warm up before brushing? The pain may be mild, tingly, or sharp and intense.


Here's some common connections:

Sensitivity to cold water that seems to develop quite suddenly? 

Have you bought a new tube of Toothpaste lately?? Tarter control or whitening toothpastes can cause good teeth to feel bad! Stop using those formulas. They are often too harsh, and they rarely do what they say they can do. Dr. Chuck and I just use plain Crest. You'll have to hunt for it on the bottom shelf and dust off the box. :) 

Also, a new paste called "Crest Pro Health" seems to make all our teeth sensitive in our office. We got samples of it last year and all started using it. Pretty quickly we were all complaining and we figured out that there is something about that formulation that is WAY too strong for many people.  

If you have good teeth that suddenly have generalized, very annoying sensitivity, check the brand of toothpaste you are using.

Shocking, sharp pain when you bite on one tooth from time to time?

This is a condition called "Cracked Tooth Syndrome". Usually, the tooth has, or has had, a large, old silver filling that is acting like a wedge in a log. We use high-tech, tiny cameras in people's mouths to find and treat these kinds of cracks. 

Don't ignore Cracked Tooth Syndrome! You will eventually need a root canal or extraction. (You can learn a lot more about this by clicking here -  "Cracked Tooth Syndrome". )

More than one tooth that is sensitive when you bite down? 

It is almost impossible to have "cracked tooth syndrome", on more than one tooth at the same time. Whenever patients complain of pain on multiple teeth when chewing, we know it's likely a result of a grinding or clenching habit. This can present for a variety of reasons; increased life stress, trouble sleeping, being run down, it can also come up after a new filling is placed.  This is often times a habit that people don't even realize they have, even when it's a severe case. In our office, we make a "night splint" that is remarkable in it's effectiveness for helping these serious "clenchers". 

This is not a "normal" night splint. The technique we use to make the splint makes 95% of patients symptom free because is has a very unique design. You can learn more by clicking here:

Tender teeth when brushing?

This is usually from root exposure. Have you been brushing your teeth as if you are cleaning your barbecue grill??? If so, you have probably brushed your gums back enough to have exposed the root.

The root does not have the protective layer of enamel, it is composed of only dentin. Dentin is a softer structure and has tiny little tubules inside, filled with fluid. These tubes connect back to the center of the tooth where the nerve is located. The nerve becomes stimulated - you feel sensitivity or pain - when the fluid inside the tube, is triggered by a stimuli; eating sweet or acidic foods, eating and drinking hot or cold foods/drinks. 

How you can help!

  1. You must learn to hold your toothbrush using only THREE fingers. This will help you hold your toothbrush more lightly.
  2. Buy only "SOFT" toothbrushes. They will work even better, because the bristles will actually wiggle between your teeth better. 
  3. Use very high Fluoridated toothpastes. (There are prescription pastes that really to a great job with this problem. Call us.) 
  4. Switch to using a Sonicare toothbrush with the high Fluoride tooth pastes. Here's more about that: Sonicare.

What can the dentist do about tooth sensitivity if "home remedies" are not effective?

In our office we always encourage the patient to keep it simple, but if those measures fail then we have a number of options:

  1. We can prescribe a high concentration, fluoride toothpaste - Prevident or Clinpro. This will strengthen the root surfaces and coat the exposed tubules. After about 2 weeks of regular use, this toothpaste usually relieves your sensitivity.  It can be used daily.
  2. We can apply a fluoride varnish - a thick, glue like paint, that we can apply directly to the root surfaces to seal the tubules from outside sources of stimuli - pain!  This is great for acute sensitivity and in many cases, patients of ours will choose to have this treatment added to their routine cleaning appointments. The varnish stays on the tooth for 4-6 hours, but the effects last weeks!
  3. We can apply a special de-sensitizing agent called Hurri-seal, which coats the tooth for some time. This usually helps for as much as 2-3 months. 
  4. In severe cases of sensitivity, where the root is exposed, or even worn away from overbrushing, bruxing habits, etc.; we can do restorative bonding. This is a procedure where the doctors create tiny scratches on the root surface and apply a tooth colored, resin, filling material directly covering the exposed dentin.  Not only is this great because it instantly, relieves the sensitivity but it often, improves the aesthetics too!
  5. In cases where the recession is severe and there is not adequate attachment of your gums, we will refer you to a gum specialist, or a periodontist, for grafting. This is a procedure where the periodontist takes a small amount of skin from the roof of your mouth and grafts it over the exposed tooth root.
We are here to help. Call for an appointment if you'd like to get started on having a real "dental home" where people care about you and the details!