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    What Can You Do About Sensitive Teeth?

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    Everything seems fine at the dinner table, and then you take a sip of a hot or cold drink. Suddenly you get a sharp pain that shoots through your tooth. If you're wondering what hit you, your dentist has the final word, but there's a good chance you've got something called "sensitive teeth."

    Several things can bring it on. Besides hot and cold drinks, your tooth might hurt if you eat or drink something sweet or sour. Sometimes a breath of cold air can set it off.

    What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

    You get it when your gums pull back and expose the surface beneath, called the dentin. This soft layer has thousands of tiny tubes that lead to the tooth's nerve center (the pulp). They allow the hot, cold, or sweet food to reach the nerve in your tooth, which kicks off your pain.

    Other things that can cause you to have sensitive teeth are:

    Wear and tear. Over time, if you brush too hard, use a hard-bristled toothbrush, or grind your teeth, you can wear down enamel and expose the dentin.

    Tooth decay. This can lead to sensitive teeth when it happens near the gum line.

    Gum disease (gingivitis). It causes inflamed and sore gums that pull back and reveal the roots of your teeth.

    Damage. Your chipped or broken teeth may fill with bacteria, which can enter the pulp and set off inflammation.

    Teeth grinding. If you do this or clench your teeth, you may wear down your enamel.

    Tooth-whitening products. These may contribute to sensitive teeth.

    Age. Your teeth are most sensitive when you're between 25 and 30.

    Plaque buildup. It can cause sensitivity when it's on the surfaces of your roots.

    Acidic foods. Food and drinks with a high acid content, like citrus fruits, tomatoes, pickles, and tea, can wear down your enamel.

    Dental work. Teeth cleaning, root planing, crown placement, and tooth restoration can make your teeth sensitive. This should go away in 4 to 6 weeks.

    Steps to Reduce the Problem

    There are many ways for you to control sensitive teeth. You can:

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    Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

    You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

    Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

    SOURCES:

    American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

    This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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