Do you flinch because your teeth hurt when you drink something hot or cold? Have you noticed your gums lately? Do they look red or swollen, or are they pink and healthy? As we age, so do our teeth and gums. Our teeth can become discolored, stained, and worn down. Our teeth are much more noticeable than our gums. But gum health is very important to tooth health. If you are suffering from tooth sensitivity consult your Livonia, MI dentist, Dr. James Stewart. He will be happy to discuss the reasons behind tooth sensitivity and available treatments.
What Is Tooth Sensitivity?
Your teeth are made up of pulp, dentin, cementum, and enamel. Pulp is the living tissue in the middle of your tooth. It is soft like the middle of a toasted marshmallow. Tooth pulp consists of nerves and blood vessels and therefore is often referred to as the “nerve” of the tooth. Irritation to dental pulp can cause serious discomfort. The tooth sensitivity you experience with age is not often due to irritation or infection of dental pulp.
Dentin surrounds the pulp and is what makes the tooth solid and white. Dentin is hard, but filled with microscopic tubules. Above our gum, dentin is covered and protected by enamel, a very hard substance. On the root of our tooth, dentin is covered with cementum. Cementum is similar to, but not as hard, as enamel.
The root of the tooth is protected by another layer of tissue, gingival tissue, or your gum. If the cementum becomes exposed, your tooth becomes sensitive to heat, cold, brushing, flossing, eating, and sometimes even air itself.
As people age, the gingival tissue that protect the roots of your teeth pulls back, shrinks, or recedes. Gum recession, and root exposure, is a primary cause of tooth sensitivity. But what causes receding gums?
Several factors can lead to gum recession:
Lack of oral hygiene can cause plaque to build up on the roots of your teeth. Plaque leads to periodontal (gum) disease which is the main cause of gum recession.
Aggressive brushing can wear away enamel leaving your teeth vulnerable to decay. It can also cause your gums to recede.
Hormonal changes that take place in women during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and while taking birth control, can make gums sensitive, cause bleeding, and cause gum recession.
Grinding, clenching, or bruxing can wear away tooth enamel, leaving your teeth susceptible to bacterial decay and leading to gum recession.
About Dr. Stewart
James R. Stewart, Jr, DDS, PC and our compassionate staff proudly serve patients of all ages from Livonia, Farmington Hills, Plymouth, Northville, Dearborn Heights, Garden City, and all surrounding communities. To schedule an appointment, call our office today at (734) 425-4400.