Why Tooth Sensitivity Happens

Posted: April 6, 2018 By: Comment: 0

Woman with a toothache

Have you ever bitten down on food and suddenly felt pain in a tooth? Tooth sensitivity and pain can happen suddenly or it can come on gradually over time. It depends on what is causing your tooth to be sensitive. Grinding teeth and daily habits can wear down your teeth over time, causing sensitivity. However, gum recession and tooth decay are the biggest culprits when it comes to that pain in your tooth. Find out why tooth sensitivity happens and what you can do to combat it!


The Makeup of Your Teeth

Your teeth are the hardest substance in your body, even harder than bone. They are made up of about 96% mineral, most of which is calcium and phosphate. Even though the teeth are hard, you can still get problems such as tooth sensitivity when inner layers of the teeth are irritated.


The outer layer of your teeth is the hard enamel. This is the hard part of your tooth. Inside that layer is the dentin, which is a bit softer. This is the layer that surrounds your tooth root, as your hard enamel is only on the crown of your teeth, or the part you can see. The dentin is also that yellow inside that tends to start showing through as a person ages. Inside the dentin is the tooth pulp. This is the sensitive tooth center that houses delicate blood vessels and nerves. When you get tooth sensitivity, it’s those nerves that signal to you to you that something is wrong. If you get tooth sensitivity, that means there’s some sort of problem with your teeth that needs to be addressed.


woman drinking water that has tooth pain

Problems with the Teeth

Even though your teeth are primarily made up of hard material, they still have a soft center that is very sensitive. Plus, your hard tooth enamel can weaken and erode over time depending on the foods and drinks you consume. If you take care of your teeth, they can maintain their hardness throughout life. However, if you don’t practice good oral hygiene, your teeth can actually become very weak and brittle.


When you eat, sugar mixes with mouth bacteria and makes plaque. That plaque is very sticky and acidic in nature, and if it sits on your teeth, it erodes the hard outer enamel. Without proper brushing and flossing, you will start to have small cracks and fissures in your teeth. That’s how plaque and bacteria get in. This leads to many problems with the teeth such as tooth decay and gum disease. Tooth decay is also known as “cavities” and is a part of a tooth where bacteria and acidic plaque have decayed your enamel. In fact, tooth sensitivity is an indication of hidden tooth decay or internal tooth infection.


What Exactly Is Tooth Sensitivity?

No matter how hard your teeth are, they can still become incredibly sensitive. We stated that tooth decay is a major reason you might have tooth sensitivity. When your tooth is getting eaten away by acidic plaque, it’s bound to make your tooth sensitive. You may not feel your tooth sensitivity until a surface cavity has become an internal cavity. This is because of that soft, pulpy center that’s become infected. The infection signals your nerves that something is wrong, and your tooth begins to hurt. If your tooth sensitivity is caused from tooth decay, there is no way to truly get rid of it unless you have a dentist fix it.


A dentist will have to go in and remove all of the decayed part of the tooth, plus the infection if there is any. If there is an infection, you may need a root canal, which is a cleaning of the entire tooth root. Tooth sensitivity can also come from a cracked or fractured tooth, old fillings that break, worn or thin tooth enamel and an exposed tooth root. Fillings are not meant to last forever. If you bite down on hard foods and an old filling comes out, you may have slight tooth sensitivity. If you break or fracture a tooth, this is a serious dental problem, as it quickly leads to infection. Call us right away if you know you’ve broken a tooth or if you have a bad toothache. It must be fixed or infection will build up quickly and can even go to your blood stream.


Woman having her teeth looked at by a dentist and hygienist

Fix Tooth Sensitivity

An exposed tooth root can also cause tooth sensitivity and is due to gum recession. You get this if you don’t brush and floss enough. Your gums will become irritated and will start to recede. Then, your dentin layer of your tooth becomes exposed, and your tooth will hurt with hot and cold. That includes hot and cold air as well as liquid. You get seasonal tooth sensitivity for this reason. If your teeth are more sensitive in the winter with winter air and being around heaters, use a sensitive toothpaste. We also have liquids that we can coat your teeth with to provide 6-12 months of sensitivity relief for exposed tooth roots.


The only real way to know the true cause of your tooth sensitivity is to see the dentist. A dentist can check for cracks, breaks, tooth decay and gum problems. Then, they can provide rapid treatment to fix the problem. Teeth can become sensitive with treatments such as teeth whitening. Reduce that sensitivity by having your whitening done in one session in-office instead of with over-the-counter products. Also, watch your use of acidic foods (citrus and sodas) that weaken teeth and cause decay. Whenever tooth sensitivity strikes, call Dr. Ania’s office right away at 303-443-0998 to get your pain under control!



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