Anyone can experience tooth sensitivity, and there's no telltale signs when it's coming. However, it’s most prevalent among those aged 20 to 40. The condition occurs when the tooth’s protective layer, the enamel, wears away. This exposes the dentin beneath the enamel, leading to sensitivity when eating or drinking things that are hot, cold, sweet, or acidic.
What Causes Enamel to Wear Away
Aggressive brushing. When you brush too hard, the enamel may erode.
Acid attacks. Sugary foods are favourite targets of harmful bacteria. These bacteria turn into acids that beat the tooth enamel down. The enamel, as a result, gets thinner until the dentin is exposed.
Receding gums. Tartar buildup may cause the gums to recede, creating an opportunity for the root surface to lose its protective layer and for pockets to form around the tooth. Bacteria may thrive in these areas as it’s harder to access and clean. All of this leads to sensitivity.
Tooth whitening treatments. Both in-office and at-home whitening treatments may cause temporary sensitivity afterwards. If you're already experiencing tooth sensitivity and are scheduled for a whitening treatment, ask your dentist what you can expect after.
Tooth grinding. Clenching the teeth also wears enamel away. You may not realize that you grind your teeth while you sleep, but your dentist can detect the signs of nighttime grinding by checking your mouth. Your dentist can make a customized mouth guard for you to wear at night to protect from future enamel wear from grinding.
With heightened sensitivity, you may experience sharp bursts of pain in your teeth. This can cause mild to severe discomfort that can last for hours. Thankfully, there are ways you can relieve sensitivity.
How to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity
Avoid triggers such as extremely hot or cold food and drinks.
Use fluoride toothpaste brands that help relieve tooth sensitivity.
Practice excellent oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, in the morning and before going to bed at night.
Choose a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace it every three to four months. Move the brush in small, circular motions instead of back and forth in a straight direction. This will also help ensure you're covering all areas, especially where the teeth and gum line meet.
Wait at least an hour before brushing your teeth after every meal.
Finally, always keep up with your dental visits. If you feel tooth sensitivity is getting worse, let your dentist know. He or she will be able to recommend treatments for the sensitivity, such as fluoride gels or varnishes.