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What is tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is tooth discomfort in one or more teeth that is triggered by hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks, or even by breathing cold air. The pain can be sharp, sudden, and shoot deep into the nerve endings of your teeth. Tooth sensitivity is very common and it has been estimated that approximately half the population experiences tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Tooth sensitivity is usually caused by dentin on root areas exposed due to enamel loss form the tooth or receded gums or gum disease.When the root of a tooth becomes exposed it does not have a layer of enamel like the crowns of your teeth. Instead the roots have a very soft covering called cementum, which once lost leaves the dentin of the root exposed. This can be caused by:
- Brushing too hard. Over time, brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear down enamel and cause the dentin to be exposed. It can also cause recession of the gums.
- Tooth decay near the gum line.
- The recession of the gums. As gums move away from a tooth due to conditions such as periodontal disease, the root surface becomes exposed.
- Cracked teeth. Chipped or broken teeth may fill with bacteria from plaque and enter the pulp causing Inflammation.
- Teeth grinding.Grinding of teeth, also called bruxism, causes fracture of enamel at the necks of teeth. This condition is called abfraction of teeth.
- Recent routine dental procedures. Sensitivity can occur following teeth cleaning, root planing, crown placement, and tooth restoration Sensitivity caused by dental procedures is temporary, usually disappearing in four to six weeks.
What Can I Do to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity?
- Maintain good oral hygiene. Continue to follow proper brushing and flossing techniques to thoroughly clean all parts of your teeth and mouth.
- Use a soft bristled toothbrush. This will result in less toothbrush abrasion to the tooth surface and less irritation to your gums. Brush gently and carefully around the gum line so you do not remove more gum tissue.
- Use desensitizing toothpaste. There are several brands of toothpaste available for sensitive teeth. With regular use you should notice a decrease in sensitivity.
- Watch what you eat. Frequent consumption of highly acid foods can gradually dissolve tooth enamel and lead to dentin exposure.
- They may also aggravate the sensitivity and start the pain reaction.
- Use fluoridated dental products. Daily use of a fluoridated mouth rinse can decrease sensitivity. Ask your dentist about available products for home use.
- Avoid teeth grinding. If you grind or clench your teeth, use a mouth at night.
Treatment of tooth sensitivity
Dr. Elseweifi always start treatment by prescribing a sensitivity tooth paste. If sensitivity does not disappear in few weeks, he may recommend other options such as:
- A brush-on fluoride gel or a fluoride rinse, or a high fluoride level toothpaste
- Fluoride varnishes and
- Composite fillings (bonding) to restore lost tooth structure.