What is Tooth Sensitivity?
Teeth are sometimes sensitive to cold water, ice cream or warm drinks. This can be the result of decay or wear-related tooth sensitivity.
Wear – related tooth sensitivity occurs over time as a result of hard tooth brushing or as dietary or stomach acids to wear away the enamel on your tooth. This exposes the second layer of the tooth, which is what we call the dentine.
When the dentine is exposed, every time you consume something cold (and sometimes hot), the tooth will get sensitive. Sensitivity feels like a sudden and sharp pain to the tooth, but frequently, it doesn’t last very long.
In children it is more likely decay that would cause the sensation associated with sensitivity.
Some people can experience sensitive teeth for their whole life, but in the case where someone has a lot of wear around their teeth, then the sensitivity becomes more pronounce. Unless you do something about it, this type of sensitivity will stick around.
What causes tooth sensitivity?
Any kind of of physical trauma to your teeth can wear the tooth away. However by far the most common cause of sensitivity is from tooth brushing. I see patients who scrub away at their teeth, thinking they are making them really clean, but instead they are slowly but surely wearing aways the enamel.
If you’re using a hard bristled toothbrush (or anything other than a really soft toothbrush), you are going to wear your teeth down. Brushing technique also affects the wear on your teeth so be careful not to simply ‘scrub away’ at your teeth.
Another cause of tooth sensitivity and wear is from the chemicals that are found in what you eat and drink. Frequent consumption of acidic foods or drinks such as citric fruits, vinegar, soft drinks and energy drinks often contribute to this form of chemical tooth wear.
Tooth wear and sensitivity can also be caused through acid wear from intrinsic acids. This is when you have stomach acids coming up from your throat whether it is from gastric reflux or another disease. There are also cases where a patient’s saliva is more acidic and the more acidic saliva places the patient at a higher risk of tooth wear and decay. Tooth grinding (bruxism) and chipped teeth can also lead to tooth sensitivity.
How to avoid further tooth wear at home
To avoid wearing your teeth down any further, here are some things you can try at home:
- Avoid use of hard bristle toothbrushes – swap it for soft bristle or electric toothbrush!
- Avoid frequent consumption of acidic foods/drinks
- Use a straw when consuming acidic drinks and chew gum after consumption
- Take antacids for gastric reflux and consult medical GP if this is an ongoing problem
- Don’t chew on pencils, toothpicks and ice
- Don’t open jars or dislodge Lego pieces with your teeth
- If you are susceptible to wear try to avoid hard nuts and seeds as this can lead to worn down areas.
Treatment for tooth sensitivity
The treatment for sensitive teeth depends upon how bad the wear is.
For low-grade tooth sensitivity, there are desensitising toothpastes available or at the dentist we can apply a desensitising agent to help relieve the symptoms of sensitivity.
In worse cases, where the wear has gone beyond the enamel of the tooth, then the tooth will actually wear at a faster rate due to the second layer of the tooth being a lot softer. In these cases we will need to do a filling in that area to seal off the exposed area.
Which teeth are most susceptible to being sensitive?
Any of the teeth in your mouth can develop sensitivity, however, tooth wear is more likely on the outside surface of the teeth. This is because we often brush this outside area the hardest, particularly along the gum lines.
How can we avoid getting sensitive teeth?
The best tips we can give to avoid tooth sensitivity is brushing to avoid wear, getting your teeth checked and professionally cleaned on a regular basis, avoiding acidic diets, managing medical conditions which may increase the acidity in the mouth and attending to the sensitivity when it first arises.
We are more than happy to take you through the correct brushing techniques, treatments for sensitivity or any other dental problems you might be having at your next appointment. Call us at Alderley Dental on (07) 3856 2144 to book your next appointment.