If you find yourself experiencing tooth discomfort when eating hot and cold foods, or when you’re biting down on sweets, then you might be suffering from tooth sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity can be uncomfortable, preventing you from enjoying a healthy diet and compromising your oral and overall wellbeing. Here, you’ll find some helpful tips for how to prevent and alleviate tooth sensitivity.
What Does it Mean to Have Tooth Sensitivity?
Your teeth may feel sensitive when hot and cold food comes into direct contact with their dentine layer. Dentine is a yellow, hard, porous tissue that lies just beneath your tooth’s enamel. If you compromise or break your tooth’s protective enamel layer, you will fully expose the dentine tissue.
The dentine pores connect to your tooth’s main nerve found inside the pulp, the internal layer of your tooth. When hot and cold food and drink come into contact with this tissue, they can trigger a sudden, sharp pain.
Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity
Brief jolts of tooth discomfort when eating hot or cold food.
Short, sharp pain when eating something sweet or sour.
Severe discomfort when biting down on something chewy, hard, or crunchy.
Intense pain when brushing your teeth or flossing.
If you find that you’re suffering from extended periods of tooth discomfort or experiencing sensitivity more frequently, it may be a sign that your tooth issues are getting worse. In these cases, you need to contact a dental health professional.
What Are the Main Causes of Tooth Sensitivity?
There are many potential causes for your tooth sensitivity, including:
Improper Brushing Technique
Research shows that brushing your teeth aggressively or for too long runs the risk of damaging your teeth’s protective enamel layer. Using a stiff or medium bristled brush and prolonged use of abrasive whitening toothpaste also have a similar effect.
To minimise sensitivity, use a soft-bristled brush, set a 2-minute timer, and use gentle circular motions to remove plaque and food debris from your teeth.
Smoking or Chewing Tobacco
Tobacco stains on your teeth break down the outer enamel layer, increasing tooth sensitivity. Over time, tobacco can also damage and destroy your gum tissue, leading to gum recession. Receding gums expose the tooth root and can cause decay, which leaves your nerves vulnerable to sugar, heat, and cold substances.
Severe Gum Disease
When your gum tissue is damaged, tooth sensitivity increases as you’ll no longer have healthy gums to help protect your teeth’s enamel and dentine layers. Your tooth’s root doesn’t have a coating of enamel, so if that becomes exposed, you’ll experience increased sensitivity, even when brushing.
Consuming Acidic Food and Drink
Acids soften your enamel, making them more porous and leading to increased tooth sensitivity. Try to moderate your acid intake by limiting sugary food and carbonated drinks. You may also need to limit your consumption of citrus fruits, tomatoes, condiments, coffee, and red wine, which also have a high acid content.
Fractured and Damaged Teeth
Plaque builds up as bacteria feed on the leftover food particles around your teeth. The bacteria in plaque break down your teeth’s enamel layers, causing decay and sensitivity. Teeth damaged due to trauma are also prone to sensitivity.
Grinding your teeth over a long period wears down the enamel and exposes your sensitive dentine tissue to external temperatures and substances. People may subconsciously grind their teeth at night, a condition known as bruxism, wearing down the protective enamel and creating future tooth sensitivity issues. People suffering from bruxism may need to wear a protective night guard to minimise further damage.
Teeth Whitening Treatments
Cosmetic teeth whitening treatments use chemical bleaching agents such as hydrogen that can damage your tooth enamel if misapplied. If you already suffer from sensitive teeth, consider the implications of this type of oral care.
If you still want cosmetic treatment, talk to your dentist about suitable teeth whitening options. Some in-chair teeth whitening brands use bleaching gel formulated with desensitising compounds.
How Can You Relieve Tooth Sensitivity?
The good news is there are plenty of ways to relieve your tooth sensitivity.
Buy a soft-bristled toothbrush and change your toothbrush as soon as the bristles start to lose their effectiveness.
Brush your teeth gently and hold your toothbrush at a 45° angle to your gum line as you brush.
Use a specialist desensitising toothpaste which contains fluoride to remineralise tooth enamel and a desensitising compound that blocks off your dentine layer.
Use a fluoride mouthwash.
Stop smoking and chewing tobacco products.
Get fitted for a custom nightguard for use while sleeping.
Reduce your acid intake and avoid drinking too many sugary and processed drinks, and watch your citrus consumption.
When it comes to teeth grinding, there are several treatments. One of the most straightforward solutions is to invest in a custom-made nightguard: you can even use a sports mouth guard.
Your dentist can create a perfect mold of your upper set of teeth and send this off to a lab where they’ll fabricate a personalised mouth guard for you. You can then wear this at night to protect your teeth from erosion through grinding.
When to Contact Your Dentist
If you’re worried that you might be suffering from tooth decay or sensitivity, talk to your dentist. If it’s urgent, contact the emergency dentist in Baker Street to receive prompt assistance and treatment.
Your dentist may apply a fluoride treatment or recommend dental bonding for decayed and damaged teeth. They can also deep clean your teeth, remove dental plaque, and scale and plane your gums to reduce the severity of gum disease.
Visit your dentist regularly to maintain the health of your teeth and reduce the risk of tooth decay and gum disease, which can lead to sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity can lead to more serious tooth and gum-related problems. What might feel like tooth sensitivity could also be something more severe, like gum disease or a deep tooth cavity. If you’re experiencing discomfort when eating hot and cold foods, or when you’re brushing your teeth, schedule a consultation with your dentist.