Sensitive Teeth

Living with sensitive teeth can be frustrating and impair your ability to enjoy everyday food and drink. Encompassing anything from a mild twinge to severe pain and discomfort, sensitivity in teeth can be applied to anyone but commonly occurs between the ages of 20 and 40.

What causes sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is caused by exposure of the dentine under your enamel, which is the softer part of your tooth. Dentine is attached to the nerves in your teeth via tiny tubes filled with fluid. By regularly consuming food and drink that is hot, cold or sweet it is possible to change the movement of the fluid, causing the nerve endings to react in response.

There are a number of causes for the exposure of dentine including:
Tooth Abrasion – A toothbrush that is too hard or used with too much force can abrade the enamel on the tooth, particularly at the thinner areas near the gumline. Once this area is worn away, dentine can be exposed and lead to sensitivity.
Tooth Erosion – The excessive consumption of fizzy drinks or acidic food can erode teeth, dissolving enamel and ultimately exposing dentine.
Gum Recession – Extreme force during brushing can lead to recession of the gums, exposing the unprotected roots and the lower part of the dentine.
Gum Disease – Plaque and tartar build up can slowly wear away the surface of the tooth, causing cavities and gaps. These gaps expose the inner dentine, leading to sensitivity.
Cracked Tooth or Filling – A crack in a tooth or filling can run down to the root of the tooth, leaving nerves exposed.

Treating sensitivity

Your dentist will advise you about the best course of treatment for your sensitivity, but there are a number of common options that they may recommend:
• Desensitising toothpaste can help block pain from the nerves after a few uses, but may require regular use
• Fluoride can be applied to the sensitive area to strengthen enamel and reduce the pain
• Exposed root surfaces may be covered with a sealant, which will prevent pain caused by receding gums
• Root canal treatment can be used in cases involving extreme pain. This process involves the removal of the tooth’s soft core, so preventing the dentine from connecting with nerves and instigating pain

Preventing sensitive teeth

To prevent sensitive teeth from recurring, there are a number of daily rituals that you can follow. Brushing twice daily with a soft brush will prevent many of the causes of sensitive teeth, including receding gums and plaque build up. Soft brushing is also beneficial, preventing the abrasion of the tooth surface and exposure of the dentine. Limiting acidic food and drinks will also prevent the erosion of enamel, as will the use of alkaline foods to counter the acidity.