Sensitive teeth – Causes, prevention and treatment

Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common dental problems we face throughout our lives. Whether we are talking about teeth sensitive to hot or cold drinks and foods, teeth sensitive to sweets or simply teeth sensitive to the touch of the tongue, this condition should be treated at the first signs.

Causes of sensitivity

Before mentioning the causes of sensitive teeth, it should be pointed out that there are two types of sensitivity:

  • dentinal sensitivity – occurs when the tooth’s dentin (the softer part of the tooth under the enamel) is exposed

  • pulpal sensitivity – is a reaction of the tooth pulp, which is the mass of organic substance located in the center of the tooth (arteriole, venule, nerve). While dentinal sensitivity can affect several teeth at the same time, pulpal sensitivity affects only one tooth.

Tooth sensitivity can manifest itself either as mild discomfort or as a sharp, sudden pain lasting a few seconds.

Causes of tooth sensitivity:

  • Aggressive tooth brushing (over time will destroy the enamel)

  • Inadequate oral hygiene (bacterial plaque causes dental calculus and cavities)

  • Untreated cavities

  • Old cracked fillings

  • Teeth whitening and use of teeth whitening products (including toothpaste)

  • Gingivitis – gum disease

  • Receding gums and exposed tooth roots

  • Acidic foods and drinks – such as citrus juices, tomatoes, pickles, fruit, vinegar, tea

  • Age – teeth are very sensitive especially between 25 and 30 years old

Causes of pulp sensitivity:

  • Infection

  • Recent filling

  • Pressure caused by teeth grinding (bruxism)

  • Cracked or broken teeth

Prevention for sensitive teeth

As always, the best treatment is prevention, which requires minimal effort and will reward you with healthy teeth.

To prevent tooth sensitivity, we recommend:

  • Brushing your teeth twice a day

  • Flossing

  • Using a toothbrush with soft bristles (soft or ultra-soft)

  • Gently brushing your teeth from top to bottom and not horizontally (not like a saw)

  • Using a toothpaste that offers protection against sensitivity

  • Using a fluoride toothpaste

  • Using mouthwash containing neutral sodium fluoride

  • Visiting the dentist twice a year

Prevention of pulp sensitivity

The only way to prevent this sensitivity is through good dental health. Unfortunately, many of us will experience this condition at some point in our lives. That’s why all we can do is go for a dental check-up every 6 months, and never put off treating dental problems.

Treatment of sensitive teeth

Fortunately for us, dentine sensitivity can be treated, regardless of its cause. Your dentist will recommend professional teeth cleaning under local anesthetic if your teeth are too sensitive. After cleaning, he will apply a fluoride varnish to protect your teeth and temporarily reduce sensitivity. More recently, there are also laser productions designed to treat damaged dentin and reduce sensitivity.

Pulpal sensitivity will only be treated by your dentist, usually by filling the canals of the diseased tooth if the nerve is affected. The dentist will extract the nerve and replace it with a sealing substance placed in the space where the nerve is located. Because the tooth will no longer have enamel as a protective barrier, it will be replaced with a filling or crown.

To treat bruxism, your dentist will recommend a mouth guard that you will need to wear while sleeping.

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