Do you experience a sharp pain or discomfort when having something hot or cold? Does eating ice cream, served cold as it should be, a painful experience for you? If yes, you may have sensitive teeth. Despite the discomfort, sensitivity is rarely a cause of concern and is luckily not hard to treat and prevent.
Sensitivity can be anything from a mild twinge to extreme discomfort that can continue for several hours. Most people experience it when having food or drinks of extreme temperatures or having something sweet or acidic.
What causes sensitivity?
The tooth is made up of several layers; the outer layer is the enamel, which protects the softer dentine underneath. The dentine has tiny tubes that lead to nerves and are filled with fluid. When the enamel is worn away, the dentine is exposed. Thus, when we eat something hot or cold, it causes a change in fluid movement, which makes the nerves react in response, causing a sharp pain.
There are many reasons for the wear and tear of the outer layer and why the dentine might become exposed.
- Brushing too hard: brushing too hard with a stiff bristled toothbrush in a side to side motion can cause the enamel to wear away. The softer dentine is exposed and thus, causes sensitivity.
- Dental erosion: Acidic food and drinks erode the dental structure of the tooth and lead to enamel loss.
- Receding gums: The gums may recede, either because of gum disease or because of the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can cause the roots of the tooth to be exposed. Since the roots don’t have a layer of enamel to protect them, it can make them sensitive.
- Teeth grinding: Teeth grinding involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel to erode, causing sensitivity.
- Acid reflux: Acid reflux can also lead to erosion of the enamel due to acid in the mouth.
How to treat sensitivity in teeth?
While it can be quite painful, sensitivity is nothing more than a nuisance and can easily be treated using fluoridated and especially formulated toothpastes that restore the lost enamel. Brushing your teeth with it or even applying it on the tooth can help. It can take a few weeks to settle, however, and requires regular usage. Using fluoride mouth rinses can also help.
Do you need to see a dentist for teeth sensitivity?
If the sensitivity doesn’t settle after a few days of using desensitizing toothpastes and making some lifestyle changes, it’s recommended that you see a dentist. Since pain symptoms can be similar, you might think it’s sensitivity, when instead, you actually have a cavity or an abscess that’s not yet visible. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis of teeth sensitivity before taking the matters in your own hand.
The dentist will examine to see what’s causing the sensitivity. She may apply desensitizing products that include fluoride gels and varnishes. These might be painted onto the teeth at regular appointments over a period of few weeks.
If the problem doesn’t resolve after using these products, the dentist might seal or fill the area to cover the exposed dentine.
How to prevent sensitivity
Sensitivity can be downright uncomfortable. However, you can prevent the wear and tear of your teeth by following simple techniques.
- Avoid brushing your teeth too hard and use a soft bristled toothbrush. A good way to find out if you are brushing your teeth too hard is by taking a look at your toothbrush. If the bristles are pointing in different directions, you’re probably brushing too hard.
- Avoid using whitening and tartar control toothpastes as these have abrasive ingredients that are too hard on your teeth and can lead to enamel erosion.
- Avoid brushing side to side and brush in small circular motions.
- If you grind your teeth, ask your dentist if you should use a mouth guard at night.
- Avoid having acidic food or fizzy drinks or at least have them less often.
- Change your toothbrush every two to three months or when it gets worn out.
Is sensitivity related to teeth whitening procedures?
Teeth whitening procedures involve the use of an ingredient, hydrogen peroxide in the form of carbamide peroxide. This ingredient is known to cause teeth sensitivity. Hence, if you’re going to have a teeth whitening procedure, talk to your dentist about this concern. Some teeth whitening toothpastes also have abrasive ingredients that are hard on your teeth and might cause sensitivity.
Hence, by practicing good oral hygiene and using desensitizing products, you can easily manage the sensitivity in your teeth.