Sensitive Teeth

Tooth sensitivity is discomfort that occurs in one or more teeth and is usually made worse by hot or cold or sweet or sour food or beverages, or even by breathing in cold air. Pain can be moderate to severe and is usually of short duration.

There are multiple causes of sensitive teeth; this condition may be a sign of serious dental disease. Correct diagnosis and treatment is important.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Sensitive teeth are caused by exposure of the nerves inside the dentin to the environment. There are different triggers for this pain which can vary from being mild irritation to excruciating sensitivity.

Dentin is the underlying layer of tooth structure and is normally protected by tooth enamel or gum tissue. Sensitivity occurs when either of these barriers are broken and the pulp of the tooth is irritated.

How does it start?

There are many factors that may lead to sensitive teeth, including:

  • Poor brushing technique
  • Over time brushing too hard or using a brush with hard bristles can wear down tooth enamel and or cause your gums to recede, this will expose the dentin of affected teeth
  • Tooth decay near the gum line
  • Gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis) results in painful gum tissue. Loss of supporting ligaments of the tooth can expose the dentin
  • Chipped, Broken or Cracked Teeth may allow bacteria to enter the structure of the tooth and cause inflammation
  • Clenching and Grinding your teeth over time may result in you wearing down the enamel and exposing the dentin
  • Tooth Whitening products can cause sensitivity. Modifying use of the product usually arrests this sensitivity
  • Your age – 25 – 30 year olds have a high incidence of tooth sensitivity
  • Plaque build up on the root surfaces can contribute to sensitivity
  • Non-prescribed mouth washes. Some over the counter mouthwashes contain acid that can increase tooth sensitivity in people with exposed dentin. Dr Mark Peddey or your dental hygienist can prescribe a neutral fluoridated solution if necessary.
  • High consumption of acidic products such as sports drinks, soft drinks, citrus fruits, tomatoes, sugary foods, and tea can cause enamel erosion
  • Recent routine dental procedures may contribute to sensitivity. This may occur after tooth cleaning, root planing, or placement of direct or indirect restorations such as fillings or crowns. This sort of sensitivity is temporary. If you are concerned about the degree of sensitivity you are experiencing or the duration of this sensitivity you should contact the rooms on 9531 0011 and discuss this with Dr Peddey or his Clinical Coordinator.

How is it treated?

It is important that the cause of sensitivity is correctly diagnosed so that the correct management can be instigated. Periodontal disease needs proper ongoing care. Sealants or bonding agents or tooth restorations may be necessary to protect the dentin and the rest of the tooth structure. Sometimes a desensitising toothpaste or fluoride mouth wash may be recommended. An oral health consultation with your dental hygienist will assist you in brushing and flossing technique and dietary advice.

What Can I do to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity?

Sensitive teeth can be prevented with regular brushing of a moderate intensity or removing corrosive elements from ones diet that are high in sugars, acids or fermentable carbohydrates.

Some steps to reduce or prevent tooth sensitivity include

  • Maintenance of a good home oral hygiene program, using the correct toothbrush and brushing and flossing technique
  • Visit your dental hygienist every six months or as recommended for the management of any periodontal disease, professional tooth cleaning and general oral health care
  • Watch what you eat and drink – eliminate sport drinks and soft drinks and limit other high acid food and beverages from your diet
  • Use prescribed fluoridated dental products as instructed by Dr Peddey or your dental hygienist
  • If you are grinding and clenching your teeth, speak to Dr Peddey about this, you may have to consider wearing a night splint to protect your teeth from further wear