Tooth sensitivity is a common name for dentin hypersensitivity or root sensitivity. If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air, makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive or painful then you have sensitive teeth.
Is Tooth Sensitivity Common?
Tooth sensitivity is very common and it has been estimated that approximately half the population experiences tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.
Why does Tooth Sensitivity (Dentin Hypersensitivity) Happen?
Tooth sensitivity is usually caused by dentin on root areas exposed due to receded gums or periodontal disease. Receded gums are very common and up to four fifths of people have gum recession by the time they are 65.
When the root of a tooth becomes exposed it does not have a layer of enamel like the crowns of your teeth. Instead the roots have a very soft covering called cementum, which once lost leaves the dentin of the root exposed. Overzealous brushing or using a very abrasive toothpaste can also cause abrasion of the tooth's enamel surface and expose dentin. A very acidic diet - for example a diet with a lot of citrus food, pickles or sodapop - can cause tooth erosion and dissolve the tooth surface, exposing the dentin. Bulimia and GERD can also result in dental erosion and sensitivity due to acid in the mouth.
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