Tooth sensitivity is a very common problem. It’s basically defined as tooth discomfort in one or more teeth- usually the front ones- and can be triggered by drinking very hot or very cold drinks; breathing cold air, or even by eating very sweet or sour foods.
The pain feels very sharp and sudden, and seems to shoot into the nerves of the teeth, followed by an ache.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitive teeth occur when the underlying layer of your teeth, called the ‘dentin’, becomes exposed. This can happen as a result of receding gum tissue, as the tooth loses the protective layer of gum that covers the tooth root.
The roots of the teeth don’t have hard enamel and contain thousands of tiny little tubules that lead to the pulp, or the nerve centre of the tooth.
It’s these little channel-like tubules that allow the stimuli to reach the nerve in the tooth, resulting in the sharp pain.
Factors affecting Sensitive Teeth
- Acidic foods and drinks: Regular consumption of food and drink with a high acid content is one of the primary culprits for sensitive teeth as they erode enamel. Acids worsen tooth sensitivity if you have exposed dentin (the middle layer of the tooth) as they further damage it.
- Teeth grinding. Grinding or clenching your teeth may wear down the enamel and expose underlying dentin.
- Tooth decay near the gum line, or gum recession
- Brushing too hard – either over-brushing or using a toothbrush with bristles that are too stiff can wear down the enamel over time and expose the dentin.
- Gum disease (gingivitis). Inflamed and sore gum tissue may cause the loss of supporting ligaments, which will expose the root surface leading directly to the nerve of the tooth.
- Cracked teeth. Broken or chipped teeth can fill with bacteria from plaque; which will enter the pulp and cause inflammation.
- Tooth whitening products. These products are tightly regulated in Ireland an should only be administered by a dentist, as people who are prone to sensitive teeth have to be very careful with the strength and frequency of the whitening product used.
Reducing Tooth Sensitivity
- Don’t drink acidic fizzy drinks
- Maintain good oral hygiene with regular flossing and brushing to thoroughly clean all parts of the mouth- ask Dr. Fagan about using and electric toothbrush,, which is much more effective than a manual one.
- Use a soft-bristled brush or electric brush head, as this reduces gum irritation and abrasion of the tooth surface. Be particularly careful around the gum line so you do not remove gum tissue.
- Use desensitizing toothpaste- there are several brands available in Ireland and although some can be a little bit more expensive than regular toothpaste, it’s worth it. Regular use will see a reduction in sensitivity.
- Use fluoridated dental products. Daily use of a fluoridated mouth rinse can decrease sensitivity.
- Avoid teeth grinding; talk to Dr. Fagan about getting a night guard to protect your teeth from bruxism (grinding of your teeth during your sleep).
- Visit Fingal Dental Surgery for regular check-ups; professional tooth cleaning and great oral hygiene advice. You may be able to get bonding to help cover exposed root surfaces, or a dentin sealer.
To book an appointment at Fingal Dental Surgery to get help with your sensitive teeth, just call 01 843 0740.