Tooth Sensitivity

Sensitive teeth can cause you to experience a sharp pain or discomfort when you drink cold water, have sweet and sour food or drinks, or even when breathing in cold air.

What is Tooth Sensitivity? 

Many people experience a sharp pain or discomfort when they drink cold water, have sweet and sour food or drinks, or even breathe in cold air. The pain is usually of very short duration and can happen on more than one tooth.

Is Having Sensitive Teeth a Common Problem?

Tooth sensitivity can affect more than half the population. This is mainly because people are living longer lives and keeping their natural dentition longer. Coupled with the consumption of many types of processed food, it is expected that there will be even more people seeking treatment for this irritation.

What Are the Causes of Sensitive Teeth?

Tooth sensitivity is caused by the gradual exposure of the dentine layer. A tooth’s root is covered mainly by bone while its upper part is covered by gums. Dentine is usually covered by enamel on the tooth’s crown. 

Dentine has tiny tubules that are connected to the nerves in the pulp of the tooth and are filled with fluid. Eating or drinking foods and drinks that are hot, cold or sweet can cause a change in fluid movement. This fluid movement causes the nerve endings to react in response, triggering a short, sharp pain.

Factors that can lead to the exposure of dentine, which in turn may cause tooth sensitivity, include:
1. Ageing. Even though our population is ageing rapidly, with good dental care, the majority of us are keeping our natural dentition. Except for the wisdom teeth, all our teeth have erupted by the time we are 11 years old. As time goes by, our teeth will wear down with use. However the height of the tooth in the mouth is not reduced drastically in the beginning. As we age, the tooth’s height is extended by the very slow but continuous eruption of the root. Thus, after some time, the dentine gets exposed not only by the wearing away of the enamel on top of the tooth, but also due to exposed roots.
2. Gum disease, which can result in gum recession
3. Caries and dental treatment
4. Cracked tooth
5. Acid — the acid can be due to food, especially sour food, and even wine. A less common source can be gastric reflux.

Treatment of Sensitive Teeth

Recent advances in toothpaste technology have brought a great amount of relief to the majority of sufferers of sensitive teeth. These anti-sensitivity toothpastes have ingredients that are able to block up the dentinal tubules. However, this relief is not permanent.

If such toothpastes are not effective, you should consult your dentist who will be able to locate the source of the irritation and also give you the necessary treatment and dietary advice.

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