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Slideshow: What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Using Too Much Mouthwash

Love keeping your breath minty fresh? If you grab frequent swigs of mouthwash throughout the day, you may be setting yourself up for sensitive teeth. That's because some mouthwashes contain acids that may make already-sensitive teeth worse. The solution: Ask your dentist about neutral fluoride rinses.

Eating Acidic Foods

Can't get enough tomatoes, citrus, fruit juices, and other acidic goodies? Your teeth can. Enjoy too many acid-rich foods and drinks and you could erode the protective enamel on your teeth, exposing the vulnerable dentin beneath. Can't give up these tart favorites? Help neutralize the acids with a piece of cheese or glass of milk after eating.

Tooth Whiteners and Some Toothpastes

Just about everyone wants a brighter smile, but for some people, tooth whiteners and toothpastes with peroxide-based bleaching solutions can cause sensitive teeth. The sensitivity is often temporary, going away once you stop using the product. Looking for the best options for you? Talk to your dentist.

Receding Gums

The roots of your teeth contain thousands of tiny tubes that lead to the nerve center of your teeth. Usually roots are hidden under a protective cover of gum tissue. But if you have periodontal disease, the gums may start pulling away from teeth, exposing the ultra-sensitive root. Receding gums need a dentist's help, so talk to yours.

Brushing Your Teeth Too Hard

Think brushing your teeth harder cleans them better? Think again. Brushing too strenuously (or using a hard-bristled brush) can expose tooth roots by causing gum recession. It can also wear away your tooth's enamel and expose dentin (yellow). Holes in the dentin are really microscopic tubes (blue) that allow hot, cold, and sweet foods to stimulate tooth nerves. Ouch!

Recent Dental Work

It hardly seems fair, but sometimes keeping your pearly whites in good condition with regular dental care can actually make them sensitive. Teeth cleanings, replacement crowns, tooth restorations, and root planing can all lead to some short-term tooth sensitivity. If you're worried about this before a procedure, talk to your dentist.

Cracked Teeth

Munching ice, biting into hard candies, having large fillings -- they can all lead to chipped, broken teeth. Once a tooth is cracked (left), the nerve-rich pulp hidden deep inside may become irritated when chewing rubs the cracked tooth pieces together. A crack may also fill with bacteria, leading to inflammation, which can result in even more pain.

Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth

Tooth enamel is the strongest material in your body, but it's no match for the power of clenching or grinding. Over time, both of these often-unconscious habits can wear away tooth enamel, leaving your teeth's nerves more vulnerable. Mouth guards, lifestyle changes, and even diet adjustments can all help combat clenching and grinding.

Tooth Decay

Decay, like this cavity, exposes the root of your tooth to a whole host of irritants: hot, cold, sweets, even air. Good oral hygiene, eating right, and seeing your dentist regularly are the best ways to battle decay and keep your teeth in top form.

Be Good to Your Mouth

You don't have to go it alone; talk to your dentist to discover exactly what's behind your sensitive teeth. To strengthen pearly whites, you may need to make a few more changes to your oral care routine, like switching to a soft-bristled tooth brush, using a desensitizing toothpaste, or trying a fluoridated mouth rinse.

Reviewed by Alfred D. Wyatt Jr., DMD on May 14, 2014

Sources: Sources

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information: Disclaimer

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