Do you get a jolt of pain whenever you wish to enjoy an ice-cream? Do you pass on every opportunity to drink your favorite hot or cold drink? Don’t worry, you are not alone. According to the American Academy of General Dentistry, about 40 million US adults suffer from tooth sensitivity. If you feel that tooth sensitivity is affecting your quality of life, then it is time that you had a visit to your dentist at the earliest convenience. This article explains everything you need to know about tooth sensitivity, its causes and how to treat it.
What Causes the Teeth to Become Sensitive?
When our teeth are healthy, they are protected on the exterior with a mineralized and hard layer known as the dental enamel. The enamel protects our teeth from the infiltration of bacteria which can cause teeth cavities. In addition, the enamel also protects the underlying sensitive layers of the teeth, the dentine, and the pulp, which contain nerve endings and blood vessels. If the enamel layer is destroyed due to any reason, it can make your teeth sensitive.
• Poor Oral Hygiene Maintenance – poor oral hygiene is one of the most common causes of generalized tooth sensitivity. When you neglect regular brushing and flossing, plaque and tartar start to deposit on the teeth, which initiates a cascade of events leading to the loss of the mineral layer protecting teeth. As a result, two things happen; your teeth become vulnerable to the development of teeth cavities. Secondly, underlying dentine and pulp layer of the teeth become exposed and you start feeling pain whenever you take anything hot or cold.
• Trauma – accidental damage to the tooth enamel can also result in the development of tooth sensitivity.
• Dietary Factors – excessive intake of acidic foods and drinks tends to increase the intra-oral acidity, thereby causing the mineralized tissue to move from the surface of the tooth into the saliva. As a result, the teeth become sensitive. This is why dentists discourage the excessive intake of fizzy drinks.
• Bruxism – bruxism refers to the habit of excessive tooth grinding. Every time the opposing teeth slide across each other during grinding, the tooth enamel is damaged. Therefore, if bruxism goes unchecked for prolonged durations, it can make your teeth sensitive.
• Gum Recession – gum recession tends to occur mainly as a result of underlying gum inflammation. When the gums start to recede from their original position, the exposed tooth structure becomes sensitive to hot or cold drinks.
• Forceful Brushing – some people tend to apply too much force while they are brushing their teeth. This is not a good idea, because it can result in wear of the protective enamel layer. Dentists advise that you should use a gentle force while you are brushing your teeth.
• Transient Tooth Sensitivity – you may feel that your teeth have temporarily become sensitive to hot or cold drinks after a teeth whitening or professional cleaning procedure. Don’t worry, this is normal, and the sensitivity will go away in a few days.
How Can You Get Rid of Tooth Sensitivity?
The first step in treating tooth sensitivity is to visit your dentist so that the underlying cause can be identified and treated accordingly. If the sensitivity is due to a tooth cavity or inflamed gums, your dentist will perform the necessary treatment. In addition, here are some other options which are helpful against tooth sensitivity.
• Fluoride Therapy – fluoride application on the teeth is one of the most effective methods for preventing tooth sensitivity. Fluoride ions enter the damaged tooth enamel and remineralize it, thereby minimizing the chances of teeth cavities and tooth sensitivity. Dentists provide fluoride therapy by using fluoride gels or varnishes. Alternatively, over the counter fluoride toothpaste, mouth rinses and chewing gums are also available. In some states, water fluoridation is performed to prevent tooth sensitivity.
• Desensitizing Toothpaste – several toothpaste brands are available in the markets which contain ingredients that are effective in preventing tooth sensitivity. Several applications of the desensitizing toothpastes are helpful in reducing the pain associated with dentinal hypersensitivity.
• Bonding – in cases where there is severe tooth damage, sensitivity can be managed by restoring the damaged tooth structure with a suitable filling material. Bonding is a procedure in which tooth-colored filling material is placed over a damaged tooth to restore its structure and aesthetics and to prevent dentine hypersensitivity.
• Periodontal Treatment – in case the underlying cause of tooth sensitivity is gum recession, your dentist will perform deep scaling and polishing to remove plaque and tartar deposits. If required, a gum graft procedure may also be performed to restore the optimal height of the gums in relation to the teeth.
• Root Canal Treatment – a root canal procedure is performed to save a tooth from extraction. The need for root canal treatment usually arises if you have previously did not seek treatment for your sensitive teeth. Over time, the tooth damage becomes so severe that it results in the inflammation of the underlying pulp tissue. In this case, your dentist has to perform a root canal procedure to surgically remove the inflamed pulp.
When you have sensitive teeth, it becomes very difficult for you to enjoy your favorite foods. Therefore, in addition to missing out on the food items you love, there are also chances that you may suffer from malnutrition because of this problem. If you feel that your teeth have become sensitive, you must visit your dentist as soon as possible, as it may indicate towards a more serious underlying problem.
Happy eating and Happy smiling!