Sensitive teeth

female showing her sensitive teeth

Sensitive teeth are a common problem and has been extensively studied by researchers over the years. Teeth react to stimuli received by the nerve in the tooth. Often teeth will give a continuous pain or just give a sudden burst of discomfort. This is often triggered by chewing something or by hot and cold foods or drinks. There are many reasons for teeth to be sensitive. It can be a complex issue for a dentist to diagnose. The dentist may need to be perform several tests on the tooth to find out the cause of the sensitivity. The use of X-rays or cold solution, tapping the tooth or biting down on a stick can all be simple things that help determine what’s wrong with a tooth.

The most common cause of sensitivity is dentine hypersensitivity, often not recognised by people.  It is generally caused by using a manual toothbrush with hard bristles. When the hard nylon filaments of these brushes cross the teeth and gums, they slowly abrade and destroy the soft gum tissues and can wear the tooth enamel away. Over long periods of use the roots become exposed and sensitive to cold stimuli.

Gum disease, gum inflammation or having gum treatments can also cause the gums to shrink away from the teeth. Plaque acids can produce redness which is inflammation. This response can lead to the slow loss of gum levels.

The dentist will often manage this discomfort with different toothpastes to add to your home-care routine. The use of dental varnish or flowable resin materials can be painted on your teeth to provide instant relief or a longer lasting effect.

Other common causes of sensitivity can be from tooth whitening. The active bleaching compounds that are prone to causing teeth to become sensitive if used for too long or too often.

Sinus congestion is also cause of tooth sensitivity. Sinus issues can make not just one tooth ache but all your teeth sensitive all at the same time.

The management of more complex cases of sensitivity may take a little longer to diagnose and treat. Fractured fillings may need replacement. A chipped or cracked tooth may have infection that can’t be seen. Fractured roots may need further investigation. Complexities of teeth are many, so other tests may need to be performed to find the problem.

If you have tooth sensitivity with a single tooth or even all of your teeth try and make a note of what causes it.  This information needs to be given to the dentist. They will perform a thorough examination of the mouth that may include taking x-rays to look for signs of disease or other problems. The mouth can be problematic and or even tricky to treat so if you have concerns seek the help of your dentist

Written by: Vivienne Bidaud, Dental Hygienist

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Colgate