Tooth sensitivity is very common, but why does it happen? The outer layer of the teeth is composed of enamel, and underneath that there is a substance called dentin. When the enamel wears away and the tooth is left with just a layer of dentin, it can become sensitive. This is because dentin is composed of tubules which are directly connected to the nerves of the teeth – and these nerves can be irritated by being exposed to heat or cold.
What causes sensitive teeth?
There are several potential reasons for people to experience sensitivity in their teeth. Brushing the teeth too vigorously and/or using a brush that is composed of hard bristles can wear away the enamel and pave the way for discomfort.
Gingivitis, the early stages of gum disease, can make the teeth more exposed and vulnerable – which can then result in sensitivity. The dentist can treat gingivitis and give advice on how to prevent it recurring.
People who have receding gums can be more likely to experience sensitive teeth. The dentist can treat this and offer guidance on how to minimise further deterioration.
Bruxism, which is also known as teeth grinding, can cause sensitivity. Many people do not realise that they do this, as it often occurs at night during sleep. Signs that may indicate that this is an issue include having a sore jaw and a headache on waking in the morning. People who suspect bruxism should see their dentist to get help to resolve the issue.
Some substances that come into contact with the teeth can cause sensitivity. These include some mouthwashes and whitening toothpastes, as they can cause erosion of the tooth enamel. Acidic foods and drinks can also be culprits of sensitive teeth.
On some occasions, dental treatments can result in sensitivity. These can include getting a professional clean, having a crown replaced and some other treatments that involve fixing teeth that are in poor condition. In these cases, the sensitivity is usually temporary and should go away on its own after a few weeks. If the patient is in any doubt about the cause of sensitivity, they should consult with their dentist.
How can sensitive teeth be fixed?
There are lots of things that a person can do to help minimise the amount of discomfort they experience as a result of sensitive teeth. Steering clear of very hot or cold food and drinks, as well as those that are highly acidic, can make a big difference. Making sure that the teeth and gums are kept scrupulously clean can reduce the issue; but whitening toothpastes should be avoided as these can exacerbate sensitivity.
It’s important to make an appointment with the dentist if sensitivity is an issue, because it could be caused by something like gum recession or gum disease – in which case specialised care and treatment will be required. The expert can fix any problems and if appropriate apply a special solution that helps to reduce sensitivity. They can also advise on the best toothpaste to use at home to help fix the problem.