Tooth sensitivity is a very common problem and it has been estimated that approximately half the population experiences tooth sensitivity. If a taste of ice cream or a sip of coffee or breathing a cold air creates tooth pain, you may have sensitive teeth.
There are two types of tooth sensitivity:
Dentinal sensitivity : It occurs when the dentin of a tooth is exposed. Normally, the dentin is covered byenamel above the gumline and by cementum below the gumline. Dentin contains tiny openings called tubules. Inside each tubule lies a nerve branch that comes from the tooth's pulp. When the dentin is exposed, cold or hot temperature or pressure can affect these nerve branches. This causes sensitivity. Dentin becomes exposed when the outer protective layers of enamel or cementum wear away. This can affect one or more teeth.
Some of the most common causes of sensitive teeth include :
- Brushing : Brushing too vigorously can also cause enamel to abrade and also cause receding gums, causing sensitivity.
- Gum Diseases : Gingivitis when left untreated cause gum recesion and dentine exposure which causes sensitivity.
- Teeth Grinding: Grind your teeth while sleeping or if you clench your teeth, you may be wearing down enamel and exposing the underlying dentin.
- Tooth abrasions
- Tooth Cavity
- Some toothpastes increase tooth sensitivity, including whitening toothpastes that lighten or remove stains from enamel, and tartar-control toothpastes containing sodium pyrophosphate.
- An old filling with a crack or leak
- Tooth whitening in people who have tooth roots that already are exposed.
- Frequently eating acidic foods or drinking acidic liquids.
Pulpal sensitivity : It is a reaction of the tooth's pulp. The pulp is a mass of blood vessels and nerves in the center of each tooth. Pulpal sensitivity tends to affect only a single tooth. Causes include :
- Decay or infection
- A recent filling
- Excessive pressure from clenching or grinding
- A cracked or broken tooth
How to manage sensitivity?
- Practice good oral hygiene which helps to prevent conditions such as gum disease, which can cause receding gums.
- Use a toothpaste specially formulated to treat the pain of sensitive teeth.
- Don't brush too hard.
- Use a soft bristles toothbrush.
- Avoid acidic foods that can wear away tooth enamel, such as wine, vinegar salad dressings and soft drinks.
- Avoid grinding your teeth or clenching during the day. Ask your dentist about a mouth guard for night time use.
- See your dentist for regular check-ups in every six months.