Sensitive Teeth 101

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It’s estimated that one in every eight people suffer from sensitive teeth.  If you find yourself avoiding food or drinks that are very hot or cold, you might be in this category.  With sensitive teeth, you’ll get a sharp pain when eating ice cream, for example, or drinking hot coffee.

Since it’s so common, most people don’t even mention it to their dentist.  You might just think that’s how teeth are, and there’s nothing that your dentist can do about it.  In some cases, it isn’t even a sign of a problem.  In others, though, sensitive teeth can be an important sign of dental issues, so it’s important to mention it to your dental professional.  And the good news is that there are a number of things you can do to reduce sensitivity and enjoy the foods and drinks you like without pain.

Here’s a basic breakdown about sensitive teeth from The Bondi Dentists:

What is it that makes teeth sensitive?

Your teeth are made up of layers.  The inner layer, the bulk of the tooth structure itself, is called dentin.  Dentin has microscopic tubules extending through it, and these tubules are filled with nerve endings.  When your teeth are healthy, the dentin is protected by an outer layer.  Above the gum line, this layer is formed from a material called enamel.  Below the gum line, dentin is wrapped with cementum.  Whenever these protective layers are lost, the sensitive nerve endings within the dentin are exposed, and your teeth become sensitive.  When this happens, food or drink that is very hot or cold, acidic or sticky, can be extremely painful.

What causes sensitive teeth?

Sensitive teeth can occur without any other dental problems.  However, there are a number of potential causes to watch out for:

  • Worn and thinning enamel. – If you brush too hard, especially with a hard-bristled brush, you can wear away the enamel and expose the underlying dentin.
  • Too many highly acidic beverages and foods.
  • Tooth grinding.
  • Receding gums that expose the root surface.
  • Broken, teeth, leaky fillings, or tooth decay.
  • Dental procedures. – Sensitivity after many dental procedures, such as cosmetic dentistry, crowns, tooth bleaching, and fillings, is extremely common.  However, it’s short lived, especially if you perform proper aftercare.

Know What Causes Your Sensitivity

As you can see, it’s vital to mention sensitivity to your dental professional, especially if this is a new or developing issue.  In many cases, restorative or procedures many not be required, however, extreme sensitivity related to other dental issues can be addressed with a dental procedure.  Make sure to let your dentist know when the pain began and what evokes it or makes it to feel better.

Sometimes, sensitivity can be eliminated with something as simple as replacing an old filling or fixing a cavity.  If you experience sensitivity around the gum line, it may be caused by gum loss which exposes the root surfaces.  In these cases, your dentist may recommend a periodontal cleaning or gum graft to support the teeth and protect the surface of the root.  The most important thing is to understand the cause, so the next time you stop in at The Bondi Dentist, make sure to have the conversation with your dental practitioner.

How to Desensitise Your Teeth

Even when your sensitivity isn’t a result of other issues, there are several things you can do to manage it.  In the office, your dentist can apply a fluoride gel.  This will strengthen the enamel and help to reduce pain.

In addition, there are a number of over the counter products that can help to manage tooth pain.  Look for toothpaste formulated specifically for sensitive teeth.  This will help to block off the nerve endings in exposed dentin.  You can use desensitising toothpaste regularly to manage your condition and continue to enjoy your favourite food and drinks.  Plus, your dentist may recommend that you rub some desensitising toothpaste on the problem areas daily.

If you’d like to know more about your tooth sensitivity, or to schedule your next regular visit, feel free to contact us.  At The Bondi Dentist, we care about your smile.