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What Causes Dental Discomfort?

WhatCausesDentalDiscomfort

Nothing ruins a thirst-quenching cold beverage or a dish of your favorite ice cream like a sudden pang of tooth sensitivity. If you're experiencing this problem — and especially if there are other triggers, like biting down — we encourage you to make an appointment. It could be something harmless and temporary, but it's always prudent to check. At the very least, you'll feel better once the underlying problem is identified and treated if necessary.

Here are some common sources of tooth sensitivity:

  • Enamel erosion — typically caused by acidic beverages/food, regurgitation of stomach acids (due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia), or improper brushing
  • Tooth decay — a sugary diet and poor dental hygiene may be contributing factors
  • Tooth fracture or chipping due to tooth grinding (bruxism) or other trauma
  • Gum recession due to age, improper tooth brushing, or gum disease
  • Filling that needs repair or replacement
  • Residual effects of recent dental work

Some things you can try at home to minimize sensitivity include:

  • Ease up on the toothbrush; a light touch is all that's needed to dislodge daily plaque build-up
  • Try using fluoride-containing toothpaste like an ointment over the affected area (fluoride decreases fluid exchange from the oral environment to the nerve inside the tooth)
  • Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (use judiciously and according to the package insert guidelines)

Discomfort related to recent dental work should resolve on its own; give it several weeks. If you're feeling discomfort for another reason, even if the sensitivity subsides, the underlying cause may still require attention.

If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sensitive Teeth.”

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