If you experience tooth discomfort from chewing, exposure to hot and cold, or even breathing through your mouth, you might be suffering from dentin hypersensitivity, otherwise known as "sensitive teeth."
Why So Sensitive?
Imagine your teeth having multiple layers like an onion. The ultra-hard outer shell is called the enamel. Beneath that is a layer of porous material called dentin that surrounds the inner nerve. Tooth enamel protects the dentin from temperature extremes and other irritants. Your gums do the same for the dentin inside the tooth roots.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when one of these protective barriers is compromised -- because of tooth decay or gum disease, for instance. When that happens, heat, cold or pressure can produce sudden, sharp pain. Other possible causes include:
An Ounce of Prevention
The key to preventing tooth sensivity is to keep the gums from receding. Here are some simple steps you can take:
Depending on the cause, using a desensitizing toothpaste can sometimes solve the problem. If that doesn't work, your dentist can apply a fluoride gel or special desensitizing agents to the affected tooth. If the problem persists, a dental filling, dental crown, dental inlay or dental bonding may be necessary to repair tooth decay or correct some other problem that may be causing the sensitivity.
Although tooth sensitivity can be easily remedied, it might be a symptom of a more serious problem. So to be on the safe side, make an appointment with a dentist to have it checked out.