Having sensitive teeth can mean anything from getting a mild twinge to having severe discomfort that can continue for several hours. You are more likely to feel the sensitivity when drinking or eating something cold, from cold air catching your teeth, and sometimes with hot foods or drinks. It can also be an early warning sign of more serious dental problems. Tooth sensitivity can be caused by a number of things.
The part of the tooth we can see is covered by a layer of enamel that protects the softer dentine underneath. If the dentine is exposed, a tooth can become sensitive. This usually happens where the tooth and the gum meet and the enamel layer is much thinner.
Over time and as you age, changes in temperature, as well as such behaviors as tooth grinding (bruxism) and overly aggressive brushing, can cause small, often microscopic cracks or fissures on the chewing surfaces of your teeth (or near the gum lines), which exposes the inner structures called dentin.
• Toothbrush abrasion – brushing too hard, and brushing from side to side, can cause dentine to be worn away, particularly where the teeth meet the gums. The freshly exposed dentine may then become sensitive.
• Dental erosion – this is loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks. If enamel is worn away the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to sensitivity.
• Gum recession – gums may naturally recede (shrink back), and the roots will become exposed and can be more sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.
• Gum disease – a build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and even destroy the bony support of the tooth. Pockets can form in the gums around the tooth, making the area difficult to keep clean and the problem worse.
• Tooth grinding – this is a habit which involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive.
◦A cracked tooth or filling – a cracked tooth is one that has become broken. A crack can run from the biting surface of a tooth down towards the root. Extreme temperatures, especially cold, may cause discomfort.
◦Tooth bleaching – some patients have sensitivity for a short time during or after having their teeth bleached. Discuss this with your dentist before having treatment.
If you have tried treating your sensitive teeth for a few weeks and have had no improvement you need to visit our office.