Have you ever felt an uncomfortable or even throbbing pain while you were drinking cold water? Well if yes, then you are a part of the many million people that are experiencing tooth sensitivity. This condition is also known as dentin hypersensitivity and it happens once the dentin is exposed directly to the oral cavity. The dentin is protected and covered by enamel on the tooth’s crown, and the dentin of the roots is protected by the cementum. It contains millions of small dental tubules that if they are exposed and come in touch with hot or cold they transfer the sensation to the nerve endings. There are many different reasons that can cause exposure of the dentin and lead to this hypersensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity affects 57% of the population. In some cases, it is just a sign of a small problem that can be solved very easily, but in others, it might point out to more serious concerns. There are many different factors that can damage the enamel and lead to a vulnerable dentin.
- Brushing your teeth too hard
There are many people that do not know how to brush their teeth properly. Using a hard-bristled toothbrush is only one of the mistakes that you can make. An inappropriate technique of brushing, such as moving the toothbrush from side to side (horizontally) can cause great damage to the enamel. Patients that use very abrasive toothpaste and brush their teeth way too many times a day have a greater chance of having hypersensitive teeth. That is why you should choose a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid using a hard grip while brushing your teeth. Everyone should adopt a proper brushing technique, and if you do not feel sure if you are brushing your teeth properly, you can always turn to your dentist and ask for advice.
- Tooth erosion
Acidic foods and drinks tend to cause erosion of the enamel, especially if teeth are exposed to them continuously. Citrus fruits such as lemons, grapefruits, oranges, kiwi, soda, high-sugar carbs, sports drinks and more can damage the enamel. The best way to avoid that is to limit the intake of those types of food and drinks. Milk, cheese, yogurt can be helpful in fighting the acidic bacteria in your mouth.
- Teeth whitening
Tooth hypersensitivity appears as one of the possible side effects of teeth bleaching. The hydrogen-peroxide and carbamide-peroxide that are used during the bleaching process are strong bleaching agents and if they are not used properly or used too much can cause enamel damage. This is why you should always be very careful, especially if you are using at-home whitening kits. The best way to get your teeth whitened is at a dental office, where the whole process will be supervised by professionals.
- Bad habits
Bruxism, or also known as tooth grinding is a common bad habit. Many patients don’t even know that they have it. The grinding causes strong masticatory forces and leads to loss of enamel. If it is not treated properly can cause a lot of damage. If you have also been feeling pain and sore jaw muscles when you wake up, then it might be a sign that you should visit the dentist. The therapy includes mouth guards that will protect the teeth.
- Periodontal disease
This is one of the most common diseases in the modern society. The periodontal disease is caused by bacteria present in the dental plaque and tartar. It leads to gum recession and loss of the bony support around the tooth. Once the gums shrink back the surface of the root is exposed and teeth become sensitive. The main reason for periodontal disease is plaque build-up, which can be avoided by proper oral hygiene.
- Tooth decay
Tooth decay destroys the tooth’s substances. It starts in the enamel and spreads to the dentine. That way it leaves the dentine exposed and it causes pain. Decay can also be present around old dental fillings. With time fillings can change and that might cause a leak between the filling and the tooth. It is a perfect way for bacteria to enter and form a cavity. Those cavities also cause tooth sensitivity. With regular visits to the dentist and good oral hygiene, you can avoid having tooth decay.
- Cracked or broken teeth
If there is a crack in your teeth that leaves a lot of dental tubules exposed and causes tooth sensitivity. Also with broken teeth, the source of the pain comes from the exposed dentin. If you have a cracked tooth or a broken one make sure to visit your dentist as soon as possible.
- Post-treatment sensitivity
This type of sensitivity appears after dental treatments such as placement of a crown or a bridge, after bleaching, root canal treatment, and in most of the cases is temporary. If the pain doesn’t stop, you have to visit your dentist.
- Using mouthwashes and rinses too often
Mouthwashes and rinses can contain chemicals that if used too much can cause damage to your teeth. That is why all of them come with instructions on how to use them. Make sure to always read and follow the instructions very carefully.
How can sensitivity be treated?
The treatment depends on the factor that causes the hypersensitivity. During your visit to the dentist, he will do a dental exam and ask you questions about when and how the sensitivity occurs. That will help him to determine the reason and to carry out a treatment plan. There are many products that you can use and will help you in relieving the symptoms. There are many desensitizing kinds of toothpaste that are available that are made for sensitive teeth. They contain fluorides and other compounds that block the painful sensation to get to the nerve and can be very helpful. There are also desensitizing pastes that you just apply on your teeth without a toothbrush. Other products that contain fluorides such as gels, rinses, sealants and varnishes can be used to reduce the pain and discomfort. Most of these products can be used at home. Once the dentist treats the primary reason that causes the condition, the sensitivity should disappear. If the problem is caries, it can be solved very easily by placing a filling. If the sensitivity is caused by a periodontal disease, a periodontist will make sure to provide the necessary treatment and so on. If there are things that you feel that are stimulating the hypersensitivity, such as cold drinks, hot drinks, ice-cream, acidic fruits, try to avoid them, at least until you have visited a dentist.