Do you experience sharp pain when you eat/drink hot, cold, sweet and sour food/drinks, or when you brush/floss your teeth, you may be suffering from tooth sensitivity as long as there is no other oral problems such as tooth fracture or tooth decay.
How does Tooth Sensitivity Occurs?
The crowns, or the part of the teeth above your gumline, are covered with a layer of protective enamel, while the roots below your gumline are protected with a material called cementum. Underneath the enamel and cementum is dentin.
The dentin contains tiny canals called dentin tubules, and when enamel or cementum wears away or becomes damaged, it exposes the dentin. When your gums recede and expose the dentin, the tubules allow fluid to flow in them and are affected by heat and cold causing the nerves in the tooth to have sensitivity and pain.
What are the causes of Tooth Sensitivity?
- Brushing too hard (‘toothbrush abrasion’), and brushing from side to side, can cause enamel to be worn away – particularly where the teeth meet the gums. The freshly exposed dentine may then become sensitive.
- Dental erosion: this is loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks. If enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed which may lead to sensitivity.
- Gums may naturally recede (shrink back ), and the roots of the teeth will become exposed and can be more sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.
- Gum disease: a build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and even destroy the bony support of the tooth. Pockets can form in the gums around the tooth, making the area difficult to keep clean and the problem worse.
- Tooth grinding: this is a habit which involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive.
- A cracked tooth or filling: a cracked tooth is one that has become broken.
- Tooth bleaching: some patients have sensitivity for a short time during bleaching or afterwards. Talk to your dental team about this before having treatment.
When are You more likely to experience teeth sensitivity?
- When drinking or eating something cold;
- From cold air catching your teeth;
- Sometimes with hot foods or drinks.
- When you take sweet or acidic food and drinks. The pain can come and go, with some times being worse than others.
Is there any home remedies I can use for sensitive teeth?
There are special toothpastes available at supermarkets which can reduce tooth sensitivity. Some of the toothpaste can reduce tooth sensitivity within seconds , such as Sensodyne Rapid Action; Pepsodent Sensitive Expert; Colgate® Sensitive Maximum Strength Toothpaste. The toothpaste can be applied directly to the tooth to enhance its effectiveness.
Fluoride containing mouthwash can also be useful: Listerine Advanced Defence Sensitive.
How can I prevent sensitive teeth?
- Consider using toothpaste specially designed for sensitive teeth.
- Use small, circular movements with a soft-to medium-bristled brush. Try to avoid brushing your teeth from side to side.
- Change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if it becomes worn.
- Don’t brush straight after eating – some foods and drinks can soften the enamel of your teeth, so leave it for at least an hour before you brush.
- Reduce intake of sugary foods, and fizzy and acidic drinks. Try to have them just at mealtimes.
- If you grind your teeth, a mouthguard may be useful, speak to your dentist.
- If you are thinking about having your teeth bleached, discuss sensitivity with your dental team before starting treatment.
- Visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.
What Your Dentist Can do to treat tooth sensitivity
If tooth sensitivity becomes unbearable and persistent, you will need to visit your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist may recommend any of the following treatment options
- In-office desensitization: This involves the use of specially formulated desensitizer which can be applied over the affected tooth/teeth.
- Topical Flouride Application: An in-office technique which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations.
- Crown, inlay or bonding: These may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity.
- Surgical Gum Replacement: This is a surgical procedure performed to replace receding gum.
- Root canal: If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this treatment to eliminate the problem.
The earlier you visit your dentist when you have tooth sensitivity, the better the chances of survival of such tooth.