What is teeth sensitivity?

At Loock Dental we frequently get asked for help with teeth sensitivity. Teeth sensitivity means pain in the teeth themselves, rather than in the surrounding gums or jaw. You often experience teeth sensitivity in particular when you have hot or cold food and drinks.

Why are my teeth sensitive?

Teeth sensitivity can be caused by gum disease (gingivitis), or periodontitis (advanced gum disease), a cavity, or by tooth grinding.

Other causes include wearing down tooth enamel by brushing too vigorously, with too hard a toothbrush, and by over-indulging in acidic foods and drinks, such as wine, which wear down the tooth enamel over time.

While it is the teeth that are sensitive, gum disease or periodontitis are causes because, as the gums recede, your teeth’s roots can become exposed. The roots are far more sensitive than the rest of the teeth because they are supposed to be covered and protected by the gums.

Tooth grinding, on the other hand, wears down the tooth enamel, making it thinner and thus more sensitive, while a cavity or hole in your tooth enamel can expose the nerves inside the tooth and cause sensitivity. Old fillings which are starting to loosen can also lead to teeth sensitivity, as a formerly closed off cavity becomes opened up again.

If teeth suddenly become sensitive and painful, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible to find out what the problem is. Grinding, gum disease and cavities all need to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

It is possible that tooth whitening treatments can cause teeth sensitivity. Speak to your dentist about how your teeth can be whitened safely.

How do you stop sensitive teeth?

Your dentist will be able to offer advice on suitable treatments that can stop teeth sensitivity completely. This will depend on the cause of the problem, so you will need to book an appointment for an examination and diagnosis.

If the problem is a cavity, then the dentist will give you a filling, or perform a root canal treatment. If an old filling has loosened, they may remove and replace it.

If your tooth is sensitive because of exposed roots, then your dentist will advise on treatment of gingivitis (gum disease) or more severe periodontitis, as needed.

If teeth grinding or clenching appears to be the problem, then your dentist may recommend that you wear a bite plate at night. This forms a barrier between your teeth so that, even while you are asleep, you are unable to grind or clench your teeth.

What can I do at home?

Practicing good oral hygiene is always your first point of call to prevent teeth sensitivity, though once your teeth are sensitive, you will need to visit your dentist to discover the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

They may recommend care such as switching to a softer toothbrush and brushing more gently, and using a fluoride treatment. This has been shown in medical research to help reduce sensitivity (when used in conjunction with other desensitising treatments). Fluoride treatments can come in gel, mouthwash or toothpaste forms.

Your dentist may also recommend a desensitising toothpaste. How these work, is they contain agents such as potassium and oxalates, that make dentin less permeable. Dentin is a layer of tissue between your teeth enamel and the soft pulp in the core of your teeth. It is hard, but porous (it allows some substances to pass through it). By making the dentin less porous, these special toothpastes can make your teeth less sensitive.

Does teeth sensitivity go away?

With correct treatment and improved oral hygiene habits, your teeth sensitivity can completely go away, so there is no need to suffer. Your first step is to book an appointment with your dentist at Loock Dental, so that you can find out what the problem is, and treat it as quickly as you can.

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Marguerite MacRobert

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