Dealing with Tooth Sensitivity

Published:December 29th, 2011


Suffering from sensitive teeth is an incredibly common problem, and most people will have some degree of sensitivity at some stage or another. This condition is caused by eating or drinking hot and cold or very sweet foods and drinks, and its severity can range from a brief twinge to sharp pains which can last for hours. It occurs in cases where the dentin, which is the underlying layer of the tooth, is exposed. Dentin contains many small tubules which allow hot and cold foods to stimulate the nerves in your tooth, and it’s exposure can be caused by several different things including:

Gum disease. If you are suffering from this condition then your gums will be red and tender, and will probably bleed whenever you brush your teeth. As gingivitis progresses the gums gradually pull back from the teeth allowing the root surfaces to become exposed. The root surfaces are not covered by a layer of tough enamel, but instead are covered by a thinner layer called cementum which is easily worn away.

Cracked teeth. Teeth that are cracked are much more likely to become infected, and much more susceptible to decay, which will again expose the dentin.

Teeth grinding or bruxism. People who grind their teeth are likely to suffer from chipped enamel, and their teeth are far more likely to crack. Every time they bite down these cracks will open up slightly, allowing hot and cold foods to penetrate. If you think you might be grinding your teeth it’s important to get the problem sorted out early on before too much damage is done. Your dentist can advise you on the best course of treatment.

Teeth whitening products. Teeth whitening products frequently cause sensitivity, regardless of whether the treatment is carried out in the dental surgery or at home. It is often difficult to predict the degree of sensitivity, but generally provided the teeth and gums are healthy the sensitivity should subside after a few days.

Sensitivity could be down to your age. People between the ages of 25 and 30 have been found to have the most sensitive teeth.

Diet. Some foods have a high acid content, and this can gradually erode the enamel layer increasing tooth sensitivity. These include foods such as citrus fruits and also tomatoes and tea.

Dental treatments. If you have recently had a dental treatment carried out such as a filling or some other type of restoration you’ll probably find you suffer from a little bit of sensitivity for a few weeks, but it should disappear after this.

Treating Tooth Sensitivity
If you suffer from sensitive teeth then ask your dentist for advice. It could be that you need dental treatment, or if your teeth and gums are generally healthy your dentist will be able to recommend desensitising products. They’ll probably suggest using toothpaste especially designed for sensitive teeth, and it can also be useful to use a fluoride mouthwash.

Make sure you use a soft bristled toothbrush, and don’t be too aggressive when you brush your teeth. However you should be brushing twice a day and flossing once-a-day to ensure your teeth stay healthy. Resist the urge to use your teeth to open packets or bottles as these could cause cracks to form, and lastly watch your diet; cut down on sugary foods and make sure you have plenty of dairy products.

About the author

Alison, is a UK born and educated dental professional with over 25 years experience.

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