Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common of all dental complaints. In fact one in five adults suffer from sensitive teeth.  As long as you have adequate enamel and gum tissue around your teeth, sensitivity will not be much of an issue. However, once the gum begins to recede or shrink from around  your tooth for some reason, things change. This situation allows the dentin which is under the enamel to become exposed to the oral environment. This is the start of the problem.

At the center of the dentin is the nerve of the tooth. From the nerve, millions of tiny nerves travel through microscopic tubules to the surface of the dentin. These tubules are filled with fluid which protects the nerve fibers. But when you drink something really cold or hot, or sweet for that matter, the fluid in the tubules is stimulated and moves the fluid. This movement travels to the inside of the nerve chamber and results in pain.

Other things can cause the fluid to move and create pain. Some of these are dehydration of the tooth, which can be caused by tooth whitening chemicals. Decay at the gum line, a cracked or broken tooth, acidic foods like lemons, and grinding or clenching of the teeth can  combine with aggressive tooth brushing to create a sensitivity problem. In short anything that exposes the tooth surface (dentin) to the oral environment , can result in sensitivity.

Most treatments for this problem involve an effort to close or seal the microscopic dentin tubules. With the tubules closed, nothing can bother the small nerves and make the fluid move around in the tubules creating pain.  One method of treatment is using a tooth paste which contains potassium nitrate or a prescription strength fluoride rinse. So, you must clean and brush all parts of your teeth and use floss to keep the tubules sealed. Plaque on your teeth is another cause of tooth sensitivity. The bacteria create an acid that dissolves the dentin enough to open the tubules. Make sure your tooth-brush is soft since it will clean efficiently and  is gentle to your gums. Hard and medium tooth brushes can actually brush the gum from around your teeth.

If you are clenching and grinding your teeth you will need to use a night guard. Now, dental procedures can also cause sensitivity. Tooth cleanings, gum treatments, fillings and cementation or preparation of teeth for crowns can all result in sensitivity issues. These can be addressed by your dentist or will resolve by themselves.  For a quick fix, the dentist can apply desensitizing agents and make you feel better. But this is just a band aid. The real solution is proper brushing and flossing and maintaining your teeth. These two things combined with regular use of sensitivity tooth paste or fluoride rise will make you feel better and correct the problem.