Tooth sensitivity can have a number of causes including tooth decay, gum disease, worn enamel, exposed roots, or whitening.
Tooth decay may cause cold or biting sensitivity. It is best to have cavities filled early before they worsen causing more pain.
Bacteria collecting under the gum causes gum disease, which could result in sensitivity. The best treatment is visiting your dentist or hygienist for a thorough evaluation and cleaning.
Erosion or wear removes tooth enamel exposing the inner softer dentin. Gum recession uncovers the root surface, which can wear into dentin. Exposed dentin easily transfers cold temperature through its microscopic hollow tubes to the nerve, causing hypersensitivity.
Desensitizing toothpaste and fluoride treatments can help reduce sensitivity. More extensive wear requires fillings, crowns or gum grafting in areas of recession.
Chemicals in whitening products dehydrate the teeth, irritating the nerves. Often this is temporary and only requires taking a break from whitening until the sensitivity resolves. Desensitizing gel or a fluoride treatment could also help in these cases.
Your dentist can work with you to help determine the specific cause of your sensitivity and the best treatment.
Kasey Petersen, D.D.S.
Williamsburg Center for Dental Health