A Guide to Sensitive Teeth
Teeth sensitivity is among the most common dental problems experienced by members of the public, but it remains extremely unpleasant. The condition sees patients experience discomfort in their pearly whites caused by the consumption of hot, cold or sweet food and drinks.
Many people will find they feel nothing more than a light twinge in their tooth when suffering from this problem, but others will experience a sharp shooting pain that can last for a number of hours and could require treatment from a dental professional.
When does tooth sensitivity occur?
In most cases, this condition arises when receding gum tissue exposes the underlying layer of the pearly whites, which – when exposed to hot, cold or sweet substances – touches the nerves in the tooth and causes discomfort and pain.
What are the main causes?
There are a number of issues that can lead to this issue, including:
- Gum disease – gingivitis and other such conditions cause the tissue to become inflamed and sore, which can also tear away the supportive ligaments and expose the root surface. This can allow the stimuli to reach the nerve of the tooth.
- Cracked teeth - Pearly whites that have chipped due to dental trauma or weakness are more likely to fill with plaque, which can lead to the bacteria entering the empty space and result in the inflammation of the tooth’s inner pulp.
- Incorrect brushing – Cleaning too vigorously or too often with a hard-bristled brush can wear away the protective enamel of the teeth over a long period of time. Additionally, this can also cause the gum tissue to recede significantly.
- Teeth grinding – Another example of an issue that can cause a breakdown of enamel. Those individuals who have bruxism should see their dentist for some guidance as soon as possible.
- General ageing - Everyday wear and tear that takes place over the years can also lead to tooth sensitivity as the pearly whites become generally weaker.
- Whitening products - This ailment is extremely common during in-surgery and DIY procedures to brighten the teeth, while different people experience the issue to a varying extent.
- Diet – Patients who consume food with a high acid content – such as lemons, oranges, tomatoes and other citrus fruits – may find they have sensitive teeth due to a breakdown of protective enamel.
- Some dental procedures - The issue can also occur more often among those who have recently undergone treatment from their dental professional, including root planning and the installation of a crown. However, it is likely this feeling will only last a few weeks.
Although sensitive teeth can be a problem for individuals of varying ages, it is more common among those between the 20 and 40 years old, while women are said to be at a higher risk of falling victim to the ailment than their male counterparts.
How is the problem diagnosed?
Tooth sensitivity can be diagnosed by a dental professional during a regular check-up through the examination of pearly whites for any signs of tooth decay and gum disease. During this assessment, a dentist will check for exposed roots using a metal instrument and determine if a root canal procedure can be carried out to resolve the issue.
What are the treatment options for sensitive teeth?
Finding a solution for the issue of tooth sensitivity is largely dependent on the cause and extent of the issue. However, there are a number of courses of action that can be taken to prevent the problem from worsening.
- A dental professional may use a desensitising product to relieve the often painful symptoms experienced by those suffering from the problem.
- Alternatively, a fluoride rinse of gel is often utilised every one or two weeks to reduce the extent of the issue while building up protection around each of the affected pearly whites.
- Some specialists may use a filling in the area where the gum and tooth meet that will effectively cover any exposed dentine.
- Root canal treatment can be utilised in extreme cases where none of the other alternatives have been successful.
Individuals who are suffering from sensitive teeth as a result of a new amalgam filling will often find the feeling naturally ease after a few weeks, but those with persistent signs are urged to visit their dentist and ask for the installation to be polished to resolve the issue.
Similarly, if the problem is caused by teeth grinding, a specialist is likely to investigate different methods that can be used to treat the original problem – with the feelings of sensitivity likely to disappear as the main problem is treated.
How can I prevent sensitive teeth?
Although it is extremely common among individuals of all ages, this issue is one that can be easily prevented with just a few simple steps that can be carried out without assistance from a professional.
Good oral hygiene – Individuals who brush and floss their teeth every day, while ensuring they clean all areas of their teeth and mouth evenly, are usually at a reduced risk of developing the problem.
However, these people are advised to use their toothbrushes gently – particularly around the gum line – to prevent the onset of sensitivity. An effective way of checking the effectiveness of this technique is to consult the bristles of the implement after use – if they are pointing in different directions, it is possible the owner is applying too much pressure.
Changing diet – By cutting down on highly acidic food such as citrus fruits, patients may find they can enjoy many of their favourite foods without any pain. Similarly, people who do drink citric juices should use a straw to limit the exposure of the teeth to the liquid.
Additionally, reducing the intake of sugary foods and fizzy drinks can also assist in limiting the risk of developing this issue.
Change toothbrush – A soft-bristled toothbrush is far less likely to remove protective enamel from the teeth, while changing the implement once every three months can improve overall oral hygiene.
Use a mouth guard – For many, teeth sensitivity can develop due to bruxism – so these individuals are advised to use such an appliance to control these actions when they are asleep.
Patients who are considering improving the appearance of their smile through a teeth whitening procedure should discuss the possibility they will develop the problem with a dental professional, who will prepare them for the sensitivity and offer advice.
Similarly, members of the public who wish to prevent the onset of this issue could ask their dentist to recommend an effective fluoride mouth rinse that they can use at home to strengthen their pearly whites.
In most cases, tooth sensitivity can be prevented by following an effective oral hygiene routine that is carried out on a daily basis. Doing so can mean individuals are free from a wide selection of ailments and enjoy a bright, white smile for as long as possible.
Symptoms of this common problem can often be alleviated by acknowledging the source of the sensitivity.
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