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If you’ve ever felt discomfort or pain in your teeth when encountering certain substances or temperatures, know that you’re not alone. Tooth sensitivity is a common problem and at least 40 million adults suffer from it in the United States. The pain tends to be sharp and sudden, but it doesn’t last forever. There are plenty of ways we can treat sensitive teeth, but first, let me tell you a little about why teeth sensitivity occurs.

When you have healthy teeth, the enamel protects the layer of dentin underneath it, which is softer than the enamel while the roots of your teeth are protected by your gums. If the enamel is worn down or the gum line recedes, then the dentin can become exposed. This is a problem because dentin is connected to the nerve that triggers pain in sensitive teeth. There are these tiny tubes located in the dentin, and when the dentin is exposed, this allows things to get into the tubes which is what causes the nerve irritation. A few common causes of tooth sensitivity include brushing too hard, the recession of the gums, gum disease, cracked teeth, teeth grinding, teeth whitening products, age, plaque buildup, mouthwash use, acidic foods or recent routine dental procedures.

Unfortunately, sensitive teeth never really disappear but you can treat them! There are plenty of different treatments, and there isn’t any single treatment option that works for everyone. It’s important to get the reason for your sensitivity diagnosed so proper treatment can be prescribed as well. Some important things to remember in order to avoid and reduce tooth sensitivity are maintaining good oral hygiene, using a soft-bristled toothbrush, using desensitizing toothpaste, watching what you eat, using fluoridated dental products, avoiding teeth grinding, and seeing your dentist regularly.

If your sensitive teeth are persisting, your doctor may suggest you get a dental procedure. A few common procedures include bonding, crowns or inlays, which may fix a tooth flaw or decay that is causing sensitivity. They may also want to do a surgical gum graft, which is used to protect the root of your tooth if the gum tissue has been lost from it. If worse comes to worst though, your dentist may recommend you get a root canal. This is typically a last resort treatment for when the sensitivity persists regardless of other treatment methods.

Practicing proper oral hygiene is important and is vital to preventing sensitive teeth. If problems arise and you have questions, it’s important you reach out to your dentist and discuss what your options might be to ensure you’re on top of your oral wellbeing.