Sensitive Teeth

Learn the causes of tooth sensitivity and what to do to ease the pain.
Just about everyone experiences some kind of tooth sensitivity at one time or another. Sensitive teeth can be quite painful and can mean anything from a mild twinge to a severe throb that can continue for hours. It can also be an early sign of more serious dental problems. Learn more about the different types of tooth sensitivities and what causes them.

Types of tooth sensitivity and causes

As you have probably experienced firsthand, there are different kinds of tooth sensitivities as well as different intensities of pain. Sensitivity to sweet or acidic food, and temperature sensitivity (cold and/or hot) are the most common complaints of tooth sensitivity, whereas biting sensitivity (pain anytime you bite into anything) usually signals a more serious underlying cause that requires immediate dental treatment.

There are many causes of tooth sensitivity, many of which are reversible if treated early:

1. Brushing too hard

Professional advice states that adults and children should change their toothbrush every three months. So if your brush is looking worn out too soon, you are probably brushing way too hard. There's actually a term for this overzealous brushing: Toothbrush abrasion. Brushing the sides of the teeth vigorously can wear away protective enamel near the gum line, which exposes the inner nerve-containing tissue of the teeth called dentin. This receding of the gum tissues, called gingival (gum recession), is one of the most common causes of tooth sensitivity.

What to do: Get a soft- to medium-bristled toothbrush and a desensitizing toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and brush gently and avoid brushing side-to-side. If there's no improvement after a few weeks, it's best to consult your dentist.

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