Sensitive teeth can cause anything from a mild twinge to acute pain and discomfort that can last for a few hours or more. Also known as dentin hypersensitivity it is a response to a more serious dental complication or as a response to stimuli such as hot of cold temperatures.
What is meant by sensitive teeth?
Teeth generally become sensitive due to worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots, but it can also be because of a cavity, a chipped or cracked tooth, a loose or worn filling or gum disease. It can be a temporary situation or a chronic problem causing pain to just one tooth or affecting all or several teeth at once.
If you feel a short, sharp and painful sensation when you bite into something like ice cream or citrus fruits or take a sip of a milkshake or take a mouthful of hot soup then you probably have sensitive teeth. It is an exaggerated response to acidic foods and drink, hot and cold food and beverages. It also hurts when your teeth are exposed to cold air and sometimes even while brushing your teeth.
Sensitive teeth can have an adverse effect on the quality of your life, but thankfully it is something you can treat.
What causes sensitive teeth?
As said there are many reasons that can cause tooth sensitivity.
Worn tooth enamel – Our tooth enamel acts as an insulating layer so when it becomes worn down its effectiveness is compromised. The pain you feel is an indication that you have enamel loss and that it could lead to further dental issues.
Exposed roots – This causes sudden sensitivity to your teeth, with a flash of pain when your tooth meets cold air, very sweet or acidic food. Sometimes you feel sensitivity when brushing and flossing as well. Receding gums cause root surfaces to be exposed owing in part to aggressive brushing, periodontal disease, gum disease, tooth grinding, smoking and the use of tobacco.
Gum disease – Gum recession and tooth sensitivity are two symptoms of gum disease, which is an infection. This infection is caused by a build up of bacteria and tartar that irritate and damage the gum tissue.
Cavity – When cavities become larger they cause tooth ache, sudden pain and/or tooth sensitivity, as the nerve becomes exposed.
Cracks and chips – When a tooth gets cracked or chipped it exposes the soft tissue at the centre of the tooth. Called the pulp, it contains the nerves and blood vessels, which is why it becomes very sensitive when exposed to hot and cold temperatures.
Worn out filling – A filling is placed to protect the centre of the tooth when it has a cavity or a crack. When it starts to loosen or becomes worn out it allows hot or cold food and drink to reach the sensitive pulp centre.
Is having sensitive teeth a serious condition?
As explained sensitive teeth are caused by a number of reasons and is usually not a serious condition. However, if the pain or sensitivity continue and become severe to the point where it becomes difficult to function normally, then talk to your dentist as soon as possible. You should never neglect tooth sensitivity because it could be an indication of other serious dental conditions. Your dentist will be able to start immediate remedial action and guide you towards treating the sensitivity.
What can you do about sensitive teeth?
First and foremost consult your dentist and receive remedial treatment. You can also get proper guidance on what to do to stop your teeth feeling so sensitive.
- If you have worn or loose fillings then replace them with new fillings as soon as possible.
- If you have early stages of gum disease or gingivitis then your dentist will treat it which will lessen the sensitivity as well as prevent tooth loss.
- Always take steps to maintain good oral hygiene habits to maintain good oral health
- Brush your teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing too hard
- Use fluoride toothpaste
- Cut down on citrus fruits and other such acidic food and beverages
- Avoid things that may cause harm to tooth enamel such as smoking
- Gum grafts to help treat thinning or receding gums
- If prescribed use desensitising gel to help ease the pain or try salt water rinses. A spoonful of honey with warm water also makes a good antibacterial mouthwash that helps heal the mouth.
- Dental sealants to protect your teeth especially the back molars and help prevent cavities for close upon two years.
- Make regular dental check-ups part of your lifestyle. Aim to visit your dentist at least twice a year and to get regular clean ups. Having a thorough examination twice a year will help spot any potential dental problems such as oral cancer, early.
If you are in the habit of grinding your teeth take steps to avoid it:
- Find ways to relax such deep breathing, listening to calming music and exercising
- Follow a regular night routine so that you find it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Regular dental check ups and recommended medication if you have jaw swelling and pain
- Following through on any recommended dental procedures
- Ask about wearing a mouth guard at night
It is true that sensitive teeth are not a serious condition, but then can be an indication of more serious dental issues. If you find that you are suddenly experiencing sensitive teeth then do not wait, make an appointment with your dentists as soon as possible. Even if it is determined that there is nothing very wrong, you will receive expert guidance on what to do to reduce and hopefully eliminate the sensitivity. You will also gain peace of mind in the knowledge that you are looking after your oral health with preventive care.