If you are experiencing a painful sensation every time you take something hot, cold, sweet or when you brush or floss your teeth it can be a sign of tooth sensitivity.
A tooth has got a hard protective layer called enamel that is part of the crown of the tooth and also protects the less dense dentin underneath. The dentin can get exposed if enamel is lost or gums are receding. The dentin is made up of microscopic hollow tubes that send impulses to the nerve making you feel pain that is characteristic of hypersensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity can cause a lot of discomfort for a person but can also be treated. We will discuss a few treatment options:
- Fluoride gel – Used as an in-office treatment to strengthen tooth enamel and reducing transmission of sensation.
- Desensitizing toothpaste – It blocks transmission of sensation to the nerves but needs to be used regularly for continuous relief.
- Crowns, inlays and bonding – This treatment will usually be used to correct decay, fractures or worn enamel by either correcting the flaw or form a protective layer over the dentin.
- Surgical gum graft – When gum tissue is lost and roots are exposed gum grafting can be used to restore the gums and protect the dentin from exposure and sensitivity.
- Root treatment – For severe cases which is unresponsive to any other treatment.
Causes and preventive procedures for sensitive teeth:
- Brushing too hard – Cause recession of gum tissue with exposure and abrasion of enamel and dentin. Use a toothbrush with softer bristles and medium size head or an electric toothbrush. Consult your oral hygienist about the correct brush if unsure as well as brushing technique and use of desensitizing toothpaste.
- Acidic foods and drink – If consumed regularly and in large quantities it will start to erode the enamel and make it more porous and susceptible for cavities. Lower your intake and refrain from brushing your teeth for at least an hour. Make sure to get regular fluoride treatment as well.
- Teeth grinding – Even though enamel is the strongest substance in the body, grinding can wear it down, expose the dentin and cause sensitivity. Receding gums that cause exposed tooth necks can also be linked to grinding. A custom made bite plate / splint made by your dentist can solve the problem.
- Tooth whitening toothpaste / mouthwashes – The toothpaste has a higher abrasion factor and if used for long periods can cause damage to the enamel. Some mouthwashes tends to have a lower than normal ph-balance and if used incorrectly can also damage the enamel. If unsure, please consult us for further guidance on this matter.
- Gum disease – Resulting in receding gums, which are increasingly common with ageing, especially if your oral health was neglected previously. To address the sensitivity the dentist will first treat the gum disease and then the recession areas by either: fluoride gel, sealants, crowns or surgical gum grafts depending on the severity of the situation.
- Excessive plaque build-up – Caused by a lack of proper dental care and regular oral hygiene visits. Plaque left for long periods on enamel will produce bacteria releasing an acid that makes the enamel porous and more prone to erosion and cavities while exposing the dentin. Make sure you practice good dental care and have regular oral hygiene visits.
- After a dental procedure – It’s common to experience some sensitivity after root canal treatment, extraction or placement of crown. If the symptoms do not disappear after a while, schedule a follow up appointment with the dentist.
- Cracked, chipped or decayed teeth – These can cause pain that goes beyond tooth sensitivity. The dentist will have to examine, evaluate and treat the tooth accordingly. (Root canal, filling, crown, inlay etc.)
- Failing fillings – As fillings get older they can start to weaken, fracture or leak, making it easy for bacteria to accumulate in the tiny crevices which cause acid build up and enamel breakdown. If you notice this type of sensitivity schedule an appointment to have it replaced or other appropriate treatment to be done.
- Bleaching – Sensitivity and pain from bleaching is usually temporary and can be treated by desensitising gel, desensitising toothpaste or fluoride treatment.
We hope that the above will help you understand tooth sensitivity and that it is treatable. The dentist will determine the cause of your sensitivity and devise a plan for treatment, monitoring as well as maintenance.