Do you ever feel a twinge in your teeth when eating or drinking something hot or cold? The discomfort and pain associated with sensitive teeth can vary, but it’s a common pain that many people suffer from. Learning to manage and help deal with the symptoms with tooth sensitivity is therefore quite important for your daily life.
To find out what’s causing this discomfort, you should visit your dentist for a check-up and ask about tooth sensitivity. Your dentist will be able to identify the cause of your sensitive teeth symptoms and rule out other causes of tooth pain, such as tooth decay, infection, disease or injury.
Who Suffers from Sensitive Teeth?
Many people suffer from sensitive teeth and it can start at any time. It is more common in people aged between 20 and 40, and women are more likely to be affected than men.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
The part of the tooth we can see has a layer of enamel that protects the softer dentine underneath. If the dentine is exposed, a tooth can become sensitive. This usually happens where the tooth and the gum meet and the enamel layer is much thinner. Some usual causes of sensitivity are:-
Brushing too hard (‘toothbrush abrasion’), and brushing from side to side, can cause enamel to be worn away – particularly where the teeth meet the gums. The freshly exposed dentine may then become sensitive. It is advised to brush in small, circular motions, or to use an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor to prevent you brushing too hard.
Dental erosion: this is loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks. If enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed which may lead to sensitivity. Gums may naturally recede (shrink back), and the roots of the teeth will become exposed and can be more sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.
Acidic foods and drinks are bad for your enamel and can lead to the erosion that causes sensitive teeth. In which case, you need to actively tailor your diet to avoid either food or drink which can negatively impact your enamel and worsen the sensitivity in your teeth. Try to cut out or limit the following from your day to day intake:
Fresh fruit juice
Sweets (anything too sugary).
Gums may naturally recede (shrink back), and the roots of the teeth will become exposed and can be more sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.
Gum disease: a build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and even destroy the bony support of the tooth. Pockets can form in the gums around the tooth, making the area difficult to keep clean and the problem worse.
Tooth grinding: this is a habit which involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive.
A cracked tooth or filling: a cracked tooth is one that has become broken.
Tooth whitening: some patients have sensitivity for a short time during bleaching or afterwards. Talk to your dental team about this before having treatment.
When are Teeth More Likely to be Sensitive?
You are more likely to feel the sensitivity when drinking or eating something cold, from cold air catching your teeth, and sometimes with hot foods or drinks. Some people have sensitivity when they have sweet or acidic food and drinks. The pain can come and go, with some times being worse than others.
Is There Anything I Should Avoid if I Have Sensitive Teeth?
You may find that hot, cold, sweet or acidic drinks, or foods like ice cream, can bring on sensitivity, so you may want to avoid these. If you have sensitivity when brushing your teeth with cold water from the tap, you may need to use warm water instead. It is important to keep brushing your teeth regularly – if you don’t, this could make the problem worse.
How Can I Prevent Sensitive Teeth?
Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350ppm (parts per million) of fluoride – you will find this information in the ingredients section. Consider using toothpaste specially designed for sensitive teeth. Use small, circular movements with a soft-to medium-bristled brush. Try to avoid brushing your teeth from side to side.
Change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if it becomes worn.
Don’t brush straight after eating – some foods and drinks can soften the enamel of your teeth, so leave it for at least an hour before you brush.
Have sugary foods, and fizzy and acidic drinks, less often. Try to have them just at mealtimes.
Prevention – good oral care; Though managing your teeth sensitivity is all and well good, preventing it in the first place would be ideal. To manage this you need to ensure that you have regular visits with your hygienist. With good care, you should be able to prevent further breakdown of your tooth enamel and thus help reduce the likelihood of your sensitivity getting worse.
Regular checkups; visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend, or sooner if you are having any problems. Sometimes we have sensitive teeth due to thin enamel, but sometimes there are more serious issues underlying the issue. For example, if you have sharp pains in one tooth in particular you may be experiencing tooth decay. As such, a simple tooth filling may help to reduce your sensitivity as it deals with the root of the issue.
If you grind your teeth, talk to your dental team about whether you should have a mouthguard made, to wear at night.
If you are thinking about having your teeth whitened, discuss sensitivity with your dental team before starting treatment.
Ultimately, sensitivity is caused by a number of issues. If you are concerned or would like more information on how to manage this issue, then it is best to seek a dental appointment to get to the bottom of the issue.
To book your free consultation and find out more about managing your sensitive teeth, get in touch with our team today. Either by calling 01925 756565 or via the contact form.