Do you wince in pain whenever cold or hot food touches your teeth? This is a sign of sensitive teeth, also known as dentin hypersensitivity in the medical world. It’s not a permanent condition and by itself isn’t a serious problem, but sufferers of sensitive teeth can bear the discomfort for an extended period if the underlying problem is not addressed, and the root of the problem could be something potentially serious if left untreated. We’ve listed below some of the common causes of sensitive teeth and the ways to prevent them from getting worse.
What causes sensitive teeth?
1. Poor Oral Hygiene
One of the primary reasons we feel tooth pain is the exposure of the teeth’s dentin layer. When this happens, the nerve centre that’s connected to the dentin is no longer protected. It becomes defenceless from the sensations and vibrations that cause pain. Not brushing and flossing your teeth regularly will build up cavities and tooth decay. This leads to a damaged enamel layer, the part of your teeth that protects the dentin.
2. Fractured Tooth
Enamel damage and dentin exposure can also be caused by fracturing a tooth. A fracture can refer to chipped outer layers of the tooth, cracks that go down to the root, and a severely broken tooth.
3. Gum Disease
Gingivitis and other gum problems cause the gums to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth. The roots contain nerves which are hypersensitive to cold, heat, and vibration. Unprotected teeth roots will also be exposed to acid, plaque, and bacteria that can cause many more dental health problems.
4. Old or Worn Out Fillings
The purpose of dental fillings, whether permanent or temporary, is to cover the dentin layer which was left exposed due to cracking or decaying of the tooth. However, fillings can get worn out or fractured over time, leaving the dentin unprotected again.
5. Consuming Acidic Foods and Drinks
Coffee, fizzy drinks, juices, fruits, sauces, and dairy products are all acidic and can weaken tooth enamel over time, which can lead to breaking or cracking. Exposed teeth roots are also sensitive to acidic foods and may result in extreme pain.
6. Using hard bristles and brushing too hard
The enamel layer can be damaged by using a toothbrush with hard bristles. It scrapes away the tooth’s outer layer causing it to become thin and more prone to breaking. This can also happen if you brush too hard, even with an ordinary bristle.
7. Grinding your teeth
Some people develop a habit of grinding their teeth when sleeping. This condition is called Bruxism, and it can wear down the enamel of your tooth if it persists.
8. Dental Procedures
After a general clean at the dentist, root canal, or dental filling, you will feel that the teeth are extra sensitive. This is just temporary and will eventually disappear. If the sensitivity persists, you should go back to your dentist right away
9. Using tooth-whitening and mouthwash products
These dental products often contain certain chemicals that can contribute to tooth sensitivity. Just like with acidic foods, you’ll feel severe pain when an exposed dentin layer touches these chemicals.
Ways to prevent teeth from becoming more sensitive
The key to preventing your teeth from becoming even more sensitive is to take care of the enamel which protects the dentin layer, as well as the roots. Below are some of the different ways you can do this:
1. Brushing your teeth lightly
Cleaning your teeth regularly is critical to dental health, but proper brushing techniques must be used in order to protect your teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing too hard. Also, refrain from brushing side-to-side right at the gum line to prevent exposing the roots and wearing down the enamel. Always brush at an angle from the gums.
2. Avoid acidic foods
As much as possible, avoid consuming acidic foods, particularly in large amounts. During those times that you do, don’t brush your teeth right away because the teeth are still weak.
3. Use a mouth guard or splint
For people with bruxism (or teeth grinding), wearing a mouthguard or splint will greatly help. It will prevent the teeth from getting damaged, especially while you’re sleeping.
4. Slow down on tooth whitening
It’s nice to have white teeth, but not at the expense of them becoming sensitive. Take a break from using whitening toothpaste and other whitening products every now and then. Also, find ways to get away from mouthwash. Proper brushing and regular flossing are enough to keep your mouth clean. Drink plenty of water or chew sugar-free gum to help remove dirt from your teeth.
5. Consult your dentist
It’s always best to speak with your dentist to get proper advice in preventing sensitive teeth. They are very knowledgeable about the causes of sensitive teeth and will prescribe the correct way to aid the problem.
At Pymble Dental Practice we are advocates of preventive dentistry to lessen the prevalence of issues such as sensitive teeth. Our experienced dentists will provide a dental program that is tailored specifically to your needs and ensures better dental health for you in the future. If you feel any sign of tooth sensitivity, call our clinic in Sydney’s North Shore to arrange a check-up right away.