Sensitive Teeth • Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
tooth sensitivity

What is Sensitive teeth

Sensitive Teeth problem or dentinal hypersensitivity, is called the condition when a cold or hot, sweet or sour stimuli in the mouth or even regular brushing causes an intense pain to some teeth.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

The most usual causes of a tooth sensitivity problem are :

  • Exposed root areas due to receding gums or periodontal disease.
  • Dentin exposure caused by vigorous brushing with a hard bristled toothbrush or incorrect way of brushing teeth.
  • Worn out enamel because of teeth grinding
  • Enamel erosion caused by chemical agents or acidic diet
  • Tooth decay, due to the lesions of the enamel surface
  • Teeth sensitivity can occur following routine dental procedures like teeth cleaning, root planing or tooth restoration. Teeth sensitivity problems caused by dental procedures are temporary, usually disappearing in 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Teeth whitening, as a result of high abrasivity or/and chemical action of the whitening products' active ingredients on the tooth tissues. Teeth sensitivity during bleaching process has become a very common problem due to the wide spread use of at home whitening products.

    Read more about the possible teeth whitening side effects.

What causes the pain in Tooth Sensitivity ?

Sensitive teeth has become one of the most common teeth problems as people keep their original teeth longer. Gums are receding by age exposing the tooth below the gumline where dentin is covered by cementum that is much softer than the enamel of the tooth crown.

The dentin contains a network of micro-tubules which run the full width of the dentin, from the pulp in the center of the tooth up to the outer edge below the enamel. If a tooth area loses its protective layer of the enamel or cementum, the dentin (and also the pulp via the tubules) becomes exposed to the outside oral environment.

Nerve cells of the pulp extending inside these tubules can be stimulated by external heat, cold, or touch applied from the outside.

The external stimulation is thought to produce movement of the fluids within the tubules and tension of the nerve, making the teeth sensitive to hot and cold, and causing a strong pain signal to be sent by the nerve.

Dental health risks due to Teeth Sensitivity

Whatever the causes of tooth sensitivity, the real problem is not the pain itself but its consequences.

People who suffer from sensitive teeth problems, due to the pain caused during brushing, usually start avoiding their regular oral hygiene. Gradually this may lead to much more serious dental problems as tooth decay and gum disease.

Tooth sensitivity can also be a sign of tooth decay or cavities or a sign of a broken tooth or cracked filling.

If you have problem with sensitive teeth, consult your dentist to identify the root cause of the problem and advise you on the proper treatment.

How to prevent Tooth Sensitivity

As preventive measures for avoiding sensitive teeth problems you should :

  • Maintain good oral hygiene. Keep your gums healthy to prevent gums recession.
  • Use a soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Brush correctly without using excessive force. Horizontal movements of the toothbrush can cause abrasions of the enamel or cementum along the gum line.
  • Avoid very acidic foods and drinks to prevent teeth erosion.
  • Use a low abrasivity toothpaste. Whitening and anti-tartar toothpastes are usual causes of tooth sensitivity.

Treatment for Sensitive Teeth problems

If you are looking for a cure for tooth sensitivity, try the following:

  • A sensitivity toothpaste, is the simplest way to fight a tooth sensitivity problem. Sensitivity toothpastes contain special ingredients as strontium or potassium which are de-sensitising agents. Strontium chloride works by blocking the dentin microtubules that enable cold and heat sensations to reach the tooth's nerve. Potassium citrate and Potassium nitrate work in a different way by blocking the mechanism of pain transmission between nerve cells.
    Today, you can find in the market many teeth sensitivity toothpaste brands. Due to the different way of action of the active ingredients between brands, the best sensitivity toothpaste for each person can be identified only after trial. When testing a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, you must have in mind that most of the sensitivity toothpastes do not show results immediately but only after being used for a period of at least two weeks.

Other sensitive teeth remedies include:

  • Dentist prescribed fluoride gels or high fluoride level toothpastes, work by enhancing the enamel remineralisation, 'closing' the dentine microtubules
  • Fluoride varnishes may be applied on sensitive teeth by your dentist in more severe cases of teeth sensitivity.
  • If none of these proves to be a succesful sensitive teeth treatment, the last solution is tooth bonding which works by covering the exposed surfaces and sealing the pores of the dentin. Bonding is mainly used for cosmetic dental treatments but it can provide an effective solution for sensitivity problems.

The cost involved with dental treatments can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to you and your family.

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