If you suffer from sensitive teeth, the prospect of chill winds might set your teeth on edge. You’re not alone! It’s thought that 1 in 8 people suffer from sensitive teeth, meaning they regularly experience pain when consuming hot or cold food and drink or from tooth brushing.
There are many treatments available to relieve tooth sensitivity, whether you’ve suffered for months or years. Check out this list to find out what treatments your dentist might recommend to resolve your tooth sensitivity.
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If you have experienced a short, sharp, shooting pain which comes on with cold air; hot, cold, sweet or acidic foods or drinks; or using cold water when brushing your teeth, you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity. The pain tends to go once whatever has caused it has gone, although some patients report a lingering throbbing discomfort.
You may find just one of your teeth is sensitive or it might affect lots or all of your teeth. Sometimes it happens just now and again, but you may find it can be there more often than not.
Tooth sensitivity is usually a sharp pain in response to air, food or drinks that are especially hot or cold or very sweet or sour. If you’re experiencing pain that is more severe and more constant, the chances are it’s a different kind of mouth pain and you should visit your dentist.
There could be lots of causes behind your sensitive teeth. While the leading cause is exposed dentine, this can happen in several ways. Let’s examine some of the common ways dentine becomes exposed and how this can cause sensitive teeth.
Many of our favourite foods and drinks can slowly wear down the enamel on our teeth, exposing the layer of dentine beneath and causing sensitivity. Common culprits include:
If you’re partial to any of the above or other sharp-tasting or sour food and drinks, this could be the source of your sensitive teeth
The enamel on the teeth’s contact surfaces can be worn away by grinding or clenching (the biting surfaces). Attrition is the term for this. Additionally, clenching or grinding can wear away enamel in other areas of the teeth, frequently just at the gum line. The term for this is abfraction.
Your gums will recede from the tooth’s surface due to gum disease (recession). This indicates that your tooth’s root surface is visible inside your mouth. The dentine on the root surface is not protected from the hot and cold substances you are putting in your
If your teeth feel sensitive when you bite down, it could be a sign of an underlying dental condition including:
These conditions need to be checked by a dentist, so if you’re experiencing pain regularly when chewing, make sure you book an appointment
Bacteria and plaque can get inside the teeth through the openings created by worn fillings or cracks in the surface of your teeth. This can cause further pain and inflammation, which may also feel like sensitivity.
We all think we know how to brush our teeth by the time we’re adults. But using the wrong technique or brushing too vigorously could cause many problems, including sensitive teeth. Applying too much pressure, using a side-to-side motion, or using a hard or old brush can all cause issues, particularly near the bottom of your teeth.
Suppose you find that you wear toothbrushes out too quickly (they should last you around three months). In that case, you’re probably brushing too hard or using the wrong technique, which may be wearing down your enamel and contributing to your sensitivity.
In some cases, gum recession happens naturally as we get older, meaning the roots of our teeth become more exposed. As they’re not protected by enamel, this can cause sensitivity. Having said that, the most common age to experience tooth sensitivity is between the ages of 20 and 40.
Some teeth whitening products can contain baking soda and/or peroxide, which can erode enamel and cause sensitivity. While sensitivity after whitening is usually short-term, it can last up to several weeks, depending on how much damage it has done to your enamel.
Speak to your dentist before having any cosmetic whitening to ensure it’s a suitable treatment for you. They’ll be able to advise you if they feel whitening will worsen or aggregate any existing sensitivity.
It’s not uncommon to experience some temporary sensitivity after routine dental work, such as:
Any sensitivity you experience after these procedures should subside in four to six weeks. Speak to your dentist if your symptoms persist.
For some patients, daily use of sensitive toothpastes is enough to relieve the pain. However, if you’ve tried sensitive paste and the problem is still there, don’t worry, your dentist has lots of tricks up their sleeve to help.
Your dentist can prescribe a toothpaste that has up to three times more fluoride than regular toothpaste. You can use this at daily at home. Or your dentist can apply a high fluoride varnish to your teeth, which has almost 16 times more fluoride than regular toothpaste.
As we’ve already seen fluoride is an excellent desensitising agent, which blocks dentine tubules. Many patients find that this can help with their sensitivity.
Your dentist may also choose to apply resins or adhesives to any particularly sensitive teeth.
These physically block the dentine tubules preventing fluid movement irritating the nerves.
The use of resins can be particularly useful where there are decay-free cavities on the surface of teeth next to the gum margin. These are the ones often caused by toothbrush abrasion or abfraction.
Apply desensitising treatment which your dentist or hygienist can carry out in surgery at the same time as polishing your teeth. This means your teeth will be professionally cleaned and desensitised at the same time.
Dental Bonding (also called Dental Sealant) can be used to create a natural-looking barrier on the roots of your teeth. This treatment involves applying tooth-coloured resin to your exposed tooth roots. The finished product blends in seamlessly with your smile and lasts between five and ten years.
In more extreme cases caused by severe gum recession surgical gum grafts (also called gingival graft or periodontal plastic surgery) involve taking tissue from somewhere in your mouth (usually the roof of your mouth) and using this to build up the gum of the affected tooth. This covers up the root and improves gum health and makes your gum line more attractive, in addition to resolving sensitivity.
If other treatments are not giving you the comfort you need and you are regularly experiencing worst discomfort from a particular tooth, your dentist may suggest getting a root canal.
Root Canal treatments remove the sensitive nerves from the tooth. While this treatment may seem drastic, it will allow you to live without tooth sensitivity in the treated tooth. Your dentist will advise you whether this treatment would be right for you.
Root Canals are also the only effective treatment for teeth that are painful due to trauma or cracks. If your teeth are broken or excessively painful, be sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible to avoid further damage.
Whatever treatment you decide on to treat your tooth sensitivity, it is important to ensure you take care of your teeth to prevent further enamel erosion and avoid recurrence of tooth sensitivity. If your diet is full of acidic and sugary foods (e.g. citrus fruits or chocolate) or drinks (e.g. soft drinks), consider cutting back, as this is a major contributor to enamel erosion. You should also ensure you maintain a good oral healthcare routine, brushing twice a day and flossing, with regular dental check-ups with your dentist.
It’s critical to pinpoint any underlying issues that are creating your sensitivity in addition to managing it. Your dentist will be able to assist you with this and offer guidance on how to handle them.
When treating issues that might have triggered your sensitivity, you might consider the following:
1. Limit your consumption of acidic foods and beverages.
2. Seek medical attention for underlying illnesses including bulimia and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
3. Request instruction on how to brush your teeth properly and a toothbrush recommendation from your dentist or dental hygienist.
4. Brush your teeth at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking anything acidic. This implies that you could require.
5. Brush your teeth before you eat acidic foods or drinks or at least 30 minutes after them. In real life this means you may need to start brushing your teeth before breakfast instead of after.
6. Ask your dentist if they think you might be clenching or grinding your teeth and ask them to make you a night-time mouth guard to prevent this
7. Brush your teeth well and clean interdentally to prevent gum disease. If you already have gum disease visit your hygienist regularly to prevent it from getting worse.
Not all sensitive toothpastes are the same. So if you try one and it doesn’t work, have a look at the label and check what the active ingredient is, then see if you can find one with a different active ingredient.
Don’t forget, by finding the right treatment you will experience a decrease in pain, an increase in comfort and an improvement in your quality of life. The days of just putting up with sensitive teeth have long gone!
There are a variety of treatments available to help with sensitive teeth, some of which you can try at home and others which your dentist will perform. The best course of action is to speak with your dentist first. They are the leading authorities on tooth sensitivity and can assist you in locating the most appropriate solutions.
To arrange an appointment to discuss your sensitive teeth
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