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What Can I Do About Sensitive Teeth?

Author:
Dr.Rahmathunisa AM (General Dentist)

Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints everywhere in the world. Almost half the population suffers from tooth sensitivity and many accept it as normal. The good news is that sensitivity can be treated with simple in-office and at-home treatments. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the movement of fluid within tiny tubes located in the dentin (the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel that contains the inner pulp), which results in nerve irritation. When the hard enamel is worn down or gums have receded, causing the tiny tube surfaces to be exposed, pain can be caused by eating or drinking foods or hot or cold beverages, touching your teeth, or exposing them to cold air.

Exposed areas of the tooth can cause pain and even affect or change your eating, drinking, and breathing habits. Taking a spoonful of ice cream, for example, can be a painful experience for people with sensitive teeth. The excessive consumption of acid-containing foods and beverages, such as citrus juices and fruits and soft drinks, can also put you at risk for tooth sensitivity. Bulimia and acid reflux can also result in erosion of the hard enamel and sensitivity due to acid in the mouth.  

Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common complaints everywhere in the world. Almost half the population suffers from tooth sensitivity and many accept it as normal. The good news is that sensitivity can be treated with simple in-office and at-home treatments. 

– Dr.rahmathunnisa am (General Dentist – wellkins)

How can I avoid sensitivity?

You can reduce your chances of getting tooth sensitivity by keeping your mouth as healthy as possible with good oral hygiene to help prevent receding gums and periodontal disease. Brushing and flossing properly as recommended by your dentist or hygienist and using low abrasion toothpaste can help reduce the chance that you will have tooth sensitivity. A diet that is not acidic also helps prevent tooth sensitivity. Ignoring your sensitive teeth can lead to other oral health problems, especially if the pain causes you to brush poorly making you vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease. Some toothpaste contains abrasive ingredients that may be too harsh for people who have sensitive teeth. Ingredients found in some whitening toothpaste that lighten and/or remove certain stains from enamel and sodium pyrophosphate, the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpaste, may increase tooth sensitivity.

What can I do about sensitive teeth?

Tooth sensitivity can be reduced by using a desensitizing toothpaste; having your dentist apply sealants and other desensitizing and filling materials, including fluoride; and decreasing the intake of acid-containing foods. Using tartar-control toothpaste will sometimes cause teeth to be sensitive as well as drinking soft drinks throughout the day, so these habits should be avoided. Avoid using hard-bristled toothbrushes and brushing your teeth too hard, which can wear down the tooth’s surface and expose sensitive spots. The way to find out if you’re brushing your teeth too hard is to take a good look at your toothbrush. If the bristles are pointing in multiple directions, you’re brushing too hard. 

How do I know when it’s time to see a dentist?

If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days and reacts to hot and cold temperatures, it’s best to get a diagnostic evaluation from your dentist to determine the extent of the problem. Before taking the situation into your own hands, an accurate diagnosis of tooth sensitivity is essential for effective treatment to eliminate pain. Because pain symptoms can be similar, some people might think that a tooth is sensitive, when instead, they have a cavity or abscess that’s not yet visible.

How do I describe my symptoms to my dentist?

Sensitivity may be defined as a short, sharp pain that is usually initiated by eating hot or cold foods or exposure to cold air. Aching often follows. Because sensitivity may mean different things to a patient and dental professional, be sure to clarify exactly what you feel when you discuss the condition with your dentist. Be sure to tell the dentist when the pain started and if there is anything, such as the application of a warm compress, that helps eliminate the pain.

Do some products help decrease sensitivity?

Toothpaste for sensitive teeth usually contains a desensitizing agent that protects the exposed dentin by blocking the tubes in the teeth that are connected to nerves. In most cases, these products must be used regularly for at least a month before any therapeutic benefits may be noticed.

What can the dentist do for my sensitive teeth?

Dentists have a variety of regimens to manage tooth hypersensitivity, including both in-office treatments and patient-applied products for home use. If the sensitivity is due to a cavity, a restoration can be placed. If gum disease is the cause, the dental professional can perform a thorough cleaning of the area. However, if the cause is from dentin being exposed, then many professional and at-home treatments can be used to reduce the sensitivity.

In-Clinic Procedures:

  • Fluoride varnish can be applied to exposed areas, strengthening the enamel
  • Fluoride foam or gel can be placed into a mouth tray; you then sit with this in your mouth for 3-5 minutes, providing the teeth with a high concentration of fluoride to strengthen the areas
  • A bonding agent, the material used to stick tooth-colored restorations to teeth, can be used to seal the dentin surface and provide a barrier to the stimuli that cause sensitivity

At Home:

  • Use a very soft bristle toothbrush, with low abrasive toothpaste
  • Brush correctly and do not over brush
  • Use a toothpaste specially formulated to soothe the nerve endings in the tooth
  • Use a high-concentration fluoride toothpaste (given to you by the dental professional) to strengthen the tooth surface

There are some treatments available, and your dental professional can help you find those that will work best, depending on your situation. Always seek a dental professional’s help – do not try to diagnose this problem yourself. It may be the sign of something more serious, and only a dental professional can tell you what it is.

What should I do after the dentist has applied a desensitizing agent?

Listen closely to your dentist’s instructions. He or she may advise you not to eat or drink for a short period to eliminate all sources of irritation, such as acidic foods, medication, or flavored toothpaste. You may also be instructed to change oral hygiene habits that are likely to cause abrasion or use a daily fluoride application (a rinse or brush-on gel).

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