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What happens when you eat a bite of ice cream or take a sip of hot coffee and your teeth experience a sharp burst of pain? Tooth sensitivity is the temporary pain you feel if you have tooth sensitivity and your pearly whites touch something hot or cold. This is generally because of exposed dentin, the layer of the tooth below the tooth enamel that is filled with microscopic tubules containing nerve endings. The dentin is normally protected by the tooth enamel in the crown, while in the root beneath the crown, the dentin is protected by cementum.

What Causes Sensitivity?

No. 1. Brushing your teeth with a hard-bristled toothbrush and brushing harshly.
No. 2. Eating or drinking highly acidic food (soda, tea with lemon, citrus fruits, pickles).
No. 3. Any worn, leaky fillings in your teeth, or broken teeth which expose dentin.
No. 4. Gum recession (when your gums pull away from the teeth).
No. 5. Bruxism, or grinding your teeth while you sleep.
No. 6. Having recent dental work done, i.e. crown, fillings, or tooth whitening.
No. 7. The buildup of plaque on your teeth.

What Makes up a Tooth?

No. 1. The tooth pulp is the soft tissue in a tooth’s center and is surrounded by the dentin. It is comprised of: blood vessels, lymph vessels, nerve tissue, connective tissue and cells. The pulp is what nourishes the tooth and repairs the dentin.

No. 2. Cementum is the thin layer of calcified or mineralized tissue covering the root of the tooth and sits inside the gum socket. Cementum is harder than bone but softer than the enamel or dentin.

No. 3. Dentin is the main part of the tooth. It is harder than bone and softer than enamel and contains microscopic canals, or tubules. These canals transmit pain stimuli and nutrition through the tissues. Dentin gives the tooth its color, grayish white or yellowish.

No. 4. Tooth enamel is a hard tissue that coats the crown, it is the hardest tissue in the body! After fully forming, it cannot grow or repair itself, but can remineralize–or regain–lost minerals. To remineralize your teeth you must get enough calcium, phosphorous and vitamin D.

What You Can Do:

Use a desensitizing toothpaste and brush your teeth gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Limit your exposure to acidic foods and avoid harsh abrasives on your teeth (tartar control toothpastes, tooth whitening, etc.) If you have bruxism (nighttime teeth grinding), wear a mouth guard.

Dr. Leyde can also help you with tooth sensitivity. For more information, please call our Professional Dental Care team at 206-546-8377 today!