Understanding Sensitive Teeth: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

Sensitive teeth can cause discomfort and disrupt daily life for both children and adults. 

If your child has ever complained of pain or discomfort when eating ice cream or drinking hot chocolate, they may be experiencing tooth sensitivity. 

At Upbeat Pediatric Dentistry, we are dedicated to helping families understand the causes, prevention, and treatment of sensitive teeth. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore the reasons behind tooth sensitivity and provide practical tips for managing and preventing this common issue.


What is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, occurs when the underlying layer of the teeth, called dentin, becomes exposed. This can happen due to enamel erosion, gum recession, or other dental issues. 

When the dentin is exposed, it allows hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods and drinks to reach the nerves inside the teeth, causing discomfort or pain.


Causes of Sensitive Teeth

1. Enamel Erosion

Enamel, the hard outer layer of the teeth, protects the underlying dentin. Enamel erosion can be caused by:

  • Acidic Foods and Drinks: Consuming too many acidic foods and beverages like citrus fruits, soda, and sports drinks can erode enamel.
  • Brushing Too Hard: Aggressive brushing can wear down enamel over time.
  • Tooth Grinding: Bruxism, or grinding your teeth, can lead to enamel erosion and increased sensitivity.


2. Gum Recession

Gum recession occurs when the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, exposing the roots. This can be caused by:

  • Gum Disease: Periodontal disease can lead to gum recession and sensitivity.
  • Improper Brushing: Brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can damage gums and cause recession.


3. Tooth Decay and Damage

Cavities, cracked teeth, and worn fillings can all expose the dentin, leading to sensitivity. It’s essential to address these issues promptly to prevent further damage and discomfort.


4. Dental Procedures

Some dental procedures, such as teeth whitening, fillings, and crowns, can cause temporary sensitivity. This typically resolves on its own, but if sensitivity persists, it’s important to consult with your dentist.


Preventing Tooth Sensitivity

1. Maintain Good Oral Hygiene

Good oral hygiene is the foundation of preventing tooth sensitivity. Encourage your child to brush their teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Flossing daily can also help remove plaque and prevent gum disease.

2. Use the Right Toothpaste

Specially formulated toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help reduce discomfort. These toothpastes contain ingredients like potassium nitrate or stannous fluoride that help block the transmission of pain signals from the tooth surface to the nerve.

3. Be Mindful of Your Diet

Limit the consumption of acidic foods and beverages that can erode enamel. Encourage your child to drink water after consuming acidic foods to help rinse away acids and reduce their impact on the teeth.

4. Avoid Tooth Grinding

If your child grinds their teeth at night, consider talking to your dentist about a custom-fitted mouthguard. This can help protect their teeth from grinding and reduce the risk of enamel erosion.

5. Use Proper Brushing Techniques

Teach your child to brush gently using circular motions and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Avoid using too much pressure, which can damage enamel and gums.


Treatment for Sensitive Teeth

1. Desensitizing Toothpaste

Desensitizing toothpaste can be an effective first step in treating sensitive teeth. It helps block the transmission of pain signals from the tooth surface to the nerve. It may take several applications before you notice a reduction in sensitivity.

2. Fluoride Treatments

Fluoride treatments, available at your dentist’s office, can help strengthen tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity. Your dentist may apply fluoride varnish, gel, or foam to the sensitive areas.

3. Dental Sealants

For children, dental sealants can be a protective option. Sealants are thin coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth to prevent decay and sensitivity.

4. Bonding or Inlays

If your child has exposed tooth roots due to gum recession or other factors, your dentist may recommend bonding or inlays. These treatments involve applying a tooth-colored resin to cover the exposed areas and reduce sensitivity.

5. Gum Grafting

In cases of severe gum recession, a gum graft may be necessary. This procedure involves taking gum tissue from another part of the mouth and attaching it to the affected area to cover exposed roots and reduce sensitivity.

6. Root Canal Therapy

If sensitivity is severe and other treatments are not effective, root canal therapy may be recommended. This procedure involves removing the damaged or infected pulp inside the tooth and sealing it to prevent further sensitivity and discomfort.

Seeking Help

Tooth sensitivity can be a frustrating and painful experience for both children and adults, but it is manageable with the right care and treatment. 

By maintaining good oral hygiene, using the right toothpaste, and seeking professional dental care when needed, you can help your child enjoy a healthy, pain-free smile.

If you or your child is experiencing tooth sensitivity, don’t hesitate to contact us at Upbeat Pediatric Dentistry. Our team of experienced pediatric dentists is here to provide personalized care and effective treatments to ensure your dental health and comfort. 

Schedule an appointment today and let us help you achieve optimal oral health!