How to Manage Sensitive Teeth

Do you avoid eating hot or cold foods because of the sensitivity you experience in your teeth when you do so? You could possibly have hyper-sensitive teeth (also known as dentine hypersensitivity).

What causes tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity can stem from a number of different causes but is usually characterised by pain coming from exposed dentine – the hard dense bony tissue that sits beneath the enamel. Your teeth are primarily made up of layers, including the outer layers of enamel and cementum and an inner layer of dentine which surrounds the nerve of the tooth. The dentine layer contains microscopic tubules filled with fluid and small nerve endings and receptors. When your teeth lose their protective outer layers it can expose the dentine tubules to different stimuli, which can evoke pain in the tooth. These stimuli may include:

  • Changes in temperature, such as exposure to cold air, or ice cold drinks
  • Acidic foods and drink, like lemons or soft drink
  • Brushing your teeth

Conditions which may lead to exposure of the dentine and hypersensitive teeth include;

  • Tooth erosion from highly acidic foods and drinks
  • Fractured teeth/trauma
  • Fillings that have worn down or been lost
  • Dental decay
  • Aggressive brushing causing enamel to wear
  • Grinding your teeth
  • Receding gums that expose the root’s surface
  • Tooth enamel defects

Can sensitive teeth be treated?
Yes, sensitive teeth can be treated, both at home and in conjunction with your dentist. However, if you have prolonged tooth sensitivity we recommend you see your dentist, as there could be an underlying dental problem that may need to be addressed.

Treatment may include;

  • Use of a desensitising toothpaste, gel or varnish. Make sure you gently brush your teeth with a soft toothbrush as aggressive brushing can wear down your enamel and cause irritation
  • Reduce the intake of acidic food and drinks
  • Maintain gum health to reduce gum recession
  • Replacement of any leaky fillings
  • Restoration of deep abrasive lesions

There are many causes for teeth sensitivity and you should always consult your dentist to look for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.