If you’ve ever felt the discomfort of sensitive teeth, you’ll understand the problem it poses for thousands of people in the UK. Tooth sensitivity affects people in varying degrees, from feeling an occasional spasm to severe pain that can last for several hours. Although many do not seek help for the problem, sensitive teeth can be a sign of serious dental problems that should be checked by your dentist.
What causes sensitive teeth?
Tooth sensitivity can affect people of all age groups, but can become worse with time. Sensitivity becomes a problem when the tooth enamel surface has worn down leaving the soft layer underneath containing small pores, called the dentine, exposed. Sensitivity can occur particularly from extreme temperatures, such as hot and cold foods and drinks and cold air. This most commonly happens where the tooth and gum meet as the enamel is much thinner in this area.
The breakdown of the tooth enamel and the subsequent sensitivity can occur for many reasons:
- Brushing too hard – you may not realise it, but many of us can brush our teeth too abrasively, causing tooth enamel to wear away especially where the gums and teeth meet
- Erosion – having a highly acidic diet, particularly acidic foods and drinks, can cause erosion of the tooth enamel, leading to exposure of the layer underneath
- Gum recession – receding gums affect thousands of people. When gums recede or pull back, the roots of your teeth become exposed. The tooth root has no enamel so it is particularly sensitive to extreme temperatures
- Gum disease – gum disease is a serious problem which can cause more problems than just sensitive teeth. A build up of plaque or tartar can lead to gum disease, which causes gum recession as well as loss of tooth bone
- Tooth grinding – many people grind their teeth, particularly in their sleep, without realising it. Clenching and grinding teeth together can lead to the wear of the tooth enamel causing sensitivity
- Cracked tooth or filling – a cracked tooth or filling can cause biting of the tooth surface towards the root, causing discomfort
- Teeth whitening - some people can experience sensitivity during or following whitening
What can you do to help tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity can be managed effectively in a number of ways so you can minimise the pain and discomfort it can cause:
- Use sensitive toothpaste – there are a number of toothpastes available for people who suffer from sensitive teeth. These work by blocking the pores of the dentine so that your teeth are less sensitive to hot or cold temperatures that can cause discomfort. Brushing twice a day with sensitive toothpaste or even rubbing the toothpaste on sensitive areas during the day can significantly decrease tooth sensitivity.
- Avoid hot or cold food and drink – extreme temperatures can trigger sensitivity so avoiding foods such as ice cream can help. Using warm water when brushing teeth can also make a big difference.
- Avoid high acidity food and drinks – acidic foods and drinks break down tooth enamel so try to avoid them as much as possible. This also includes reducing the number of sugary drinks and snacks you have.
- Be careful about teeth whitening – teeth whitening is a popular and safe procedure but if you suffer from sensitivity, talk to your dentist before you have any treatments.
How can you prevent your teeth becoming sensitive?
Many people worry about their teeth becoming sensitive or have just started to see signs of teeth sensitivity. There are many steps you can take to prevent your teeth from becoming sensitive:
- Change the way you brush your teeth – brushing your teeth with a fluoride or sensitive toothpaste twice a day can prevent sensitivity from emerging. The most important thing to remember is to use small and circular movements, not side to side, when brushing and to use a soft or medium bristled brush. This can stop abrasive brushing which can wear away at the tooth enamel. Electric toothbrushes work especially well for this purpose. You should also remember to change your toothbrush every two or three months as a worn toothbrush can be especially aggressive on gums.
- Watch what you eat – minimise sugary and fizzy drinks in your diet and avoid high acidity foods.
- Use a mouthguard for teeth grinding – if you grind your teeth, speak to your dentist about whether wearing a mouth guard at night can help you.
- Speak to your dentist about gum disease – if you notice sensitive and bleeding gums, this could be a sign of gum disease. Gum disease is a serious dental problem which can lead to tooth loss and receding gums. Receding gums are very likely to cause sensitive teeth so visit your dentist regularly to minimise the damage gum disease can do.
How can Oris help you with tooth sensitivity?
You can speak to one of our dentists and hygienists about your tooth sensitivity. We will look at your symptoms and find the best way to treat your teeth. Fluoride gels and rinses may be used to relieve sensitivity and provide protection to sensitive areas. Make regular checks with us so we assess whether your symptoms have improved.
Book an appointment with us!