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Tooth sensitivity, cause, prevention and treatments

If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air, makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive or painful, then you may have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the enamel that protects our teeth gets thinner, or damaged, or when gum recession occurs, exposing the underlying surface, the dentin.

Related conditions to Tooth sensitivity:

  • Tooth decay (cavities)
  • Fractured teeth
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum disease
  • Worn tooth enamel
  • Exposed tooth root

 

Diagnosing Dentin Hypersensitivity

The diagnosis of dentin hypersensitivity can be very challenging for the dental professional. It is important to conduct a thorough differential diagnosis of the dental pain to exclude the other possible causes, such as leaking restorations or fractured dentition.

 

Management of Dentin Hypersensitivity

Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity. Your dentist may suggest one of a variety of treatments:

Try toothpaste made for sensitive teeth
Several brands of toothpaste on the market are designed to help people with sensitive teeth. Some pastes contain an active ingredient called potassium nitrate, which helps to block the tiny tubules in the dentin. They don’t work for everybody, but experts agree it’s usually the best place to start. How you’re using it is important, the best way is 2min brushing at least 2times a day, and for longer than 3 month.

Change the way you brush
If you’re not using a soft toothbrush, if you’re scrubbing your teeth vigorously, or if you’re not brushing for a full two minutes, then you’re not doing any favours for your sensitive teeth. Hard brushing can actually wear away enamel, increasing the sensitivity in your teeth. If you have any recession of your gums or bone loss—and your tooth root is exposed as a result—then you’re also scrubbing at cementum. Cementum is meant to protect the root of the tooth, but wears away even faster than enamel.

Avoid acidic food and drinks
Exposure to red wine, pop, fruit juices and acidic foods—such as oranges and pickles—can put your enamel under constant attack. Limit these foods and drinks, and try to brush about 20 minutes after eating them (not earlier, or the brushing may hurt your enamel further). Even if your teeth aren’t yet feeling sensitive, it’s a good idea to be cautious about consuming certain foods and drinks, as enamel loss is irreversible.

Ask your dentist about in office desensitizer
If you’re not having much luck with a desensitizing toothpaste, talk to your dentist about topical barriers. Desensitizing agents like fluoride varnish or even plastic resins can be applied to the sensitive areas of your teeth. They wear off over time—a few months to a couple of years, depending on what material is used—so they’ll need to be reapplied.

Put a stop to tooth grinding
If you’re grinding your teeth when you’re tense, you could be wearing away or crack enamel and giving yourself a sensitivity problem. You may not even realize you’re grinding: Often people only do it while they’re sleeping, but unexplained jaw pain or headaches could be a clue. If you do grind your teeth, try a mouth guard at night, or change your sleeping position. If you notice yourself clenching during the day, remind yourself to relax your jaw with your teeth slightly apart.

Treat your receding gums
Normally the root of your tooth is covered up by your gum tissue. But if you have some gum recession, caused by gum disease or even hard brushing, then the root will be exposed and the cementum can be worn away. Your dental care provider may be able to rebuild or restore your receding gums, for example with a treatment involving tissue grafts.

A crown, inlay or bonding
These may be used to correct a flaw or decay that results in sensitivity.

Root canal
If sensitivity is severe and persistent and cannot be treated by other means, your dentist may recommend this treatment to eliminate the problem.