Is eating ice cream or sipping hot coffee painful? Do brushing and flossing cause a zing? If you feel pain or tingling, then you may have sensitive teeth. At least 45 million Americans suffer from sensitive teeth; one-in-five adults suffers from sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is highest between the ages of 25 and 30 years.
A layer of hard enamel protects the crowns of your teeth. A layer of cementum protects the tooth root under the gum line. Gum tissue is a protective blanket that covers the tooth roots. Underneath the hard enamel, or cementum, is the porous dentin which is made up of tiny openings called tubules or channels. Inside each tubule lies a nerve that comes from the tooth's pulp (the mass of blood vessels and nerves in the center of the tooth). When the dentin loses its protective covering and is exposed, it may cause hypersensitivity and discomfort when you drink cold liquids, eat hot foods, eat sweet or sour foods, or when you breathe through your mouth. Even brushing and flossing can be painful.
The nerves inside the tooth get stimulated causing everything from discomfort to a sharp, sudden, shooting pain deep into the nerve endings of your teeth. Some of the causes of tooth crown disintegration include tooth decay, a cracked tooth, a chipped tooth, or a broken tooth; damaged teeth may fill with bacteria, entering the pulp and causing inflammation. Teeth sensitivity can mean significant pain and it often impacts daily activities, such as eating, drinking, and brushing your teeth. It can also lead to painful dentist office visits and procedures.
There are many causes of tooth sensitivity, and sensitive toothpaste can help protect against painful teeth sensitivity. Identify the cause of your tooth sensitivity and ask your dental professional for advice. To determine the root for your sensitivity and whether or not sensitive toothpaste will help, see if any of the following causes apply to you.
You will notice sensitive teeth when stimuli, such as hot or cold sensations, reach the nerves inside the teeth and cause pain or tingling. Some common causes of sensitive teeth include:
- Your toothbrush type: What type of toothbrush do you use? Most dental professionals recommend using a soft-bristled toothbrush. The soft bristles prevent long-term damage to your enamel and are gentler on your gums. When combined with a sensitive toothpaste such as Crest Gum and Sensitivity, the right toothbrush can help avoid painful discomfort. Most of Crest toothpastes use an active ingredient called stannous fluoride, which is clinically proven to help protect teeth from painful sensitivity.
- Teeth Whitening: Whiter teeth can boost your self-confidence and improve your appearance, but you can have too much of a good thing. If you have sensitive teeth, be sure to use teeth-whitening products no more frequently than the manufacturer recommends. Try limiting yourself to one whitening product, and then use other oral care products for sensitive teeth so you can maintain a regular oral care routine and enjoy a brighter smile, or try whitening products designed for sensitive teeth. Crest Gum and Sensitivity Gentle Whitening Toothpaste can help maintain your whiter smile while helping to protect against sensitivity.
- Irregular flossing: Do you floss regularly? Flossing is one of the most important components of your oral hygiene routine. Flossing can prevent plaque build-up that leads to gum disease, receding gums, sore gums and tooth sensitivity. Since 80% of sensitivity starts at the gum line, it’s important to care for your gums to ensure a healthier smile. When combined with sensitive toothpaste such as Crest Gum and Sensitivity, it can help protect your teeth and gums from painful sensitivity.
- Tooth Decay: Sensitive teeth can be an early sign of a cavity. A cavity in a tooth is another way by which nerves in the center of the tooth become exposed. Crest Pro-Health toothpastes contain stannous fluoride, which helps protect sensitive teeth from cavities. All Crest Pro-Health toothpastes are triclosan-free.
- Gum Disease: If you have gum disease, you can develop sensitive teeth if the inflamed tissue in your gums is not protecting the tooth roots. Periodontal disease is an infection of the gums and bone that support the teeth. It can progress and destroy the bone and other tooth-supporting tissues, exposing the teeth roots. Gum recession can occur due to age. Chewing tobacco, or snuff, causes the gums to recede. A healthy mouth starts at the gum line so be sure to incorporate gum care oral care products into your routine.
- Damaged Tooth Enamel: Everyone's tooth enamel can start to wear away with age, but tooth enamel can also wear away due to factors including high exposure to acidic foods or overzealous brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush. Damaged enamel exposes the inner layer of the teeth and causes them to become more sensitive to heat, cold, and pressure.
- Brushing Too Hard: Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can cause gum recession and root exposure over time. Tooth enamel can be worn down or abraded and the dentin exposed by brushing too hard, brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush. Tooth roots can become exposed by aggressive brushing, incorrect brushing, or using a hard-bristled toothbrush. The sensitive tooth roots can also become exposed.
- Acidic Foods: Eating acidic foods and beverages on a regular basis can cause enamel to erode, increasing the likelihood of sensitivity. regularly consuming foods and beverages with high acid content (citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles, tea), or by sucking on hard candy.
- Dental Work: Believe it or not, even caring for your teeth can cause sensitivity. Sensitivity can occur after dental work, however, it is temporary and usually disappears in four to six weeks. Dental procedures such as teeth cleaning, crown placement, root planing or tooth restoration can cause temporary sensitivity that can last for four to six weeks.
- Teeth Grinding: Do you grind your teeth? Grinding your teeth can cause damage to the tooth’s outer layer (enamel) and expose the tooth’s inner layer (dentin), making it more susceptible to sensitivity and decay.
- Crest Gum and Sensitivity Toothpaste: Clinically proven to promote healthier gums, the uniquely formulated toothpaste helps protect from sensitivity by treating it right at the source. The foamy action works at the gum line to help neutralize harmful plaque bacteria and forms a protective shield against food and drink that causes sensitivity.
- Oral-B Glide Pro-Health Floss for Sensitive Gums: The softest Oral-B Glide floss is 2x softer vs. Glide Original and is designed to make flossing more comfortable for even the most sensitive gums.
- Oral-B Sensitive Gum Care Replacement Brush Head: Equip your electric toothbrush with a specialized brush head that combines extra soft bristles to remove plaque from hard to reach areas while still being gentle on gums.
- Crest Gum Care Mouthwash: The alcohol-free formula helps to reduce gum disease, inflammation, and bad breath germs for a healthier gum line, which can help alleviate sensitivity.
Sensitivity toothpastes work by either blocking the exposed dentinal tubules or by desensitizing the nerve endings in the dentinal tubules. Most sensitivity toothpastes, including the leading sensitivity brand, work by numbing the nerve inside your tooth. Crest Gum and Sensitivity works differently. It fights sensitivity at the source by treating your gum line. Additionally, it’s formulated with stannous fluoride which helps block the tubule openings to keep the external triggers such as heat and cold from ever reaching and stimulating the nerve inside the tooth. Stannous fluoride also binds to enamel to create a micro-thin shield, strengthening the tooth.
If you want whiter teeth but you have sensitive teeth, start by following a complete oral care routine. Continue to use oral health products for sensitive teeth, and gradually introduce gentle whitening products. Crest Gum and Sensitivity Gentle Whitening Toothpaste cleans stains on the surface of teeth and protects against tooth sensitivity.
- J Am Dent Assoc. 2003 Feb;134(2):220-5.
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