Sensitive Teeth

Sensitivity can affect one or more teeth. It is important to differentiate between the pain associated with tooth sensitivity and other tooth problems including decayed or cracked teeth. Consult your dentist to eliminate other potential causes for pain associated with sensitive teeth.
 
What happens when a tooth is sensitive?
Two essential processes for the development of tooth sensitivity are the exposure of the inner layer of the tooth known as dentine and the presence of open tubules within the dentine. In the presence of an external stimulus, such as cold air, hot, cold, sweet or sticky foods and drinks, and brushing or flossing, the fluid flow within the open dentine tubules stimulates the nerves inside the tooth and causes, sensitivity. Usually, this pain subsides quickly and does not cause any permanent damage to the tooth. However, this pain can be very unpleasant and prevent you from maintaining proper oral hygiene. 
 
What causes dentine exposure? 
A major cause of dentine exposure is the loss of enamel, the protective outer layer of the tooth crown. Main causes of enamel loss are dental erosion caused by acidic foods and drinks, and damage caused by aggressive tooth brushing. Receding gums, commonly known as ‘getting long in the tooth’ is another leading cause of dentine exposure. This recession occurs as a result of periodontal (gum) disease, and damage caused by aggressive tooth brushing. 
 
Other dental conditions that cause similar pain: 
 
Cracked tooth syndrome
Chipped or worn tooth exposing dentine
Broken fillings
Dental decay (caries)
Dental procedures like tooth whitening can also cause tooth sensitivity. 
 
 
How to prevent sensitive teeth?
Avoid erosion of tooth enamel by limiting the number of times each day you eat and drink acid foods and drinks.
Don’t hold your drinks in the mouth or swish the drinks around the - mouth as this increases the chance of enamel erosion.
Maintain good oral hygiene to avoid recession of your gums from - periodontal disease.
Ask your dentist about proper ways of brushing your teeth as aggressive tooth brushing can cause gum recession and lead to exposure of dentine.
 
Treatment for sensitive teeth:
As a first step it is important to exclude other dental problems that cause symptoms similar to tooth sensitivity. Once other problems are eliminated then the next step is to find the exact cause of sensitivity in your mouth. Based on the cause your dentist will advise you on proper diet and tooth brushing practices. Treatment for sensitive teeth can vary from twice-daily brushing with desensitizing toothpaste to appropriate professional interventions at the dental office. 
 
At the dental office: 
In some cases, desensitizing toothpastes alone may not relieve pain. Your dentist may recommend application of desensitizing agents at the dental office. Sometimes this may include several applications before the sensitivity is relieved. Other treatment options include gum grafting procedures to manage receding gums, fillings to seal the exposed dentine, and finally root canal treatment to eliminate unmanageable pain. To find out which treatment is best for you, and the costs involved, talk to your dentist.