Sensitive Teeth

If you suffer from sensitive teeth a dentist can determine what is causing the sensitivity and find ways to treat and eliminate the causes.

What does the term sensitive teeth really mean, and what symptoms does it include?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Sensitive teeth is really a broad topic, because the key to it is finding out what is causing the sensitivity. Usually when people say they have sensitive teeth, it is usually either biting down or some kind of stimulus that’s either hot or cold. Sometimes it is brushing. Sensitivity, the key is you have to find out what is the cause, so it’s such a broad topic that you really don’t know what you’re dealing with until you do a really thorough analysis.

That leads right to question two. What causes sensitive teeth, and are some people more at risk for having sensitive teeth?

Dr. Darren McKeever: From my experience, the number one thing that causes sensitive teeth is people who clench or grind their teeth, usually in their sleep, sometimes it’s during the day. Clenching and grinding puts little microfractures into the enamel, sometimes all the way up the root. It flexes the roots of the teeth. You can lose enamel in certain specific areas that makes the enamel thinner, and therefore it is not as good of a protective barrier to hot or cold or to the assaults of certain acidic foods. Everyone can be at risk for sensitive teeth depending on how well they treat their teeth, how well they’ve had a diagnosis of why they have sensitive teeth rendered by a professional, but the key is finding the cause, treating the cause, and then committing to the treatment.

Should a special toothpaste or rinse be used if someone has sensitive teeth?

Dr. Darren McKeever: Certain toothpastes or rinses or fluoride prescriptions can be very helpful with sensitivity, but they’re really only treating the symptoms. If you don’t know what’s actually the root cause of the sensitivity, you may only be spinning your wheels, getting a little bit of a relief, and still wondering why you can’t go and have ice cream when you want. Really, toothpastes have been great. They’ve increased in their effectiveness over the last ten to fifteen years. There are certain mineral toothpastes that will put mineralization back into the teeth, but if you don’t know what the cause is, you’re really only treating the symptoms and you can’t expect to have a real cure.

Are there any dental treatments that can be done to help sensitive teeth?

Dr. Darren McKeever: There really are a lot of treatments for it, but like I said, you have to know what’s at the root cause. If it’s decalcification from foods or improper oral hygiene, those are things that you can treat simply. If it’s from clenching or grinding, you need to have that treated. You may have to wear a bite guard to stop putting the microfracturing or the increased wear on the teeth. You don’t want that to progress, so really, like I said, you have to come up with a diagnosis, you have to know what’s causing it, and then you have to find out whether or not you’re going to be able to commit to that treatment. More often than not for sensitivity, the treatments are rather simple.

If someone thinks they have sensitive teeth, should they see a dentist to get checked?

Dr. Darren McKeever: The short answer on that is yes. Always see the dentist. Let the professional figure out what is the cause. A lot of people will think, “Well, I have sensitivity. I’ll treat it myself because I watch TV and I saw something on a commercial that said it treats sensitivity.” Well, you can try that, but if it doesn’t work, you may have wasted time. You really don’t know, is the sensitivity just from something simple like some demineralization, which some of those treatments will be effective in treating, or is it the beginning of an early cavity? How about if it’s you have gum recession and now your root is exposed? You really need to want to figure out why you have that gum recession, so the short answer, which is really very effective is, yes, see your dentist, get checked, find out what is causing the problem.

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If you are interested in speaking with Dr. Darren McKeever, visit or call 973-839-8180 to schedule an appointment.

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