Sensitive Teeth – Dental Treatment

Introduction – Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth are a relatively common problem. Various studies have reported a prevalence of such sensitivity in 17-50% of the population. It is characterized by a sharp, shooting pain that can vary in severity. This pain usually occurs on exposure to heat, cold, pressure or acidic agents.

The crowns of your teeth are covered by the hardest substance in the body called the enamel. Under the gums the teeth is covered by a similar hard substance called the cementum. Under this layer of enamel and cementum lies a structure called the dentin. This dentin is composed of hollow material that has canals. When there is loss of the protective enamel, your teeth become sensitive to heat, cold, acidic or sticky foods which transmit pain sensations through the nerves lying underneath. This causes you to wince as you have anything that is hot, cold or when you brush or floss. Pain can also be stimulated when you clench your teeth hard or even breathe through your mouth.

Some common causes of teeth sensitivity include –

  • Too much brushing especially with a brush with hard bristles can erode away the protective enamel and lead to sensitive teeth. Similarly vigorous flossing can also strip the tooth of its protective covering making it sensitive to heat, cold and other insults.
  • Long and repeated use of mouthwashes, especially those with acidic components are also detrimental to your enamel and can cause sensitive teeth.
  • Some dental products are claimed to whiten the teeth. These usually contain baking soda or peroxide. Long use of these can damage your enamel to a significant extent.
  • A cracked or chipped tooth is obviously devoid of enamel that leads to exposure of the nerve and pain.
  • Plaque deposition and tartar build up on the root surfaces of teeth can also lead to sensitive teeth. These lead to formation of acids that erode the enamel and lead to sensitive teeth.
  • Regular insults to the enamel with acidic foods like citrus fruits (lemons, oranges etc.), tea or pickles etc. can also lead to sensitive teeth.
  • Gum diseases like periodontal disease or gingivitis causes the gums to strip away from the tooth. This exposes the roots of the teeth to external insults and causes pain.
  • Dental procedures like tooth cleaning, planning, crown placement etc. involve friction on the enamel that can lead to sensitive teeth. This hypersensitivity to pain lasts not more than four to six weeks after the procedure.
  • Pregnancy may also bring along sensitive teeth. This is mainly due to hormonal changes in you that soften the tissues including gums. This may lead to pain and bleeding. Also your blood volume increases during pregnancy. This can also lead to swelling of the gums and pain.

If you have sensitive teeth, here are some tips to care for them and treat them effectively –

  • Oral hygiene is of primary importance in prevention of enamel damage. Clean your mouth 5 minutes after meals and before bed time. Floss at least twice a day. Use tooth brushes with soft bristles and avoid flossing hard. Hold the toothbrush at 45 degree angle and apply light pressure as you brush.
  • Some tooth pastes are desensitizing. Use of these for some time will protect your teeth from tooth sensitivity. Use fluoridated mouthwashes and toothpastes only.
  • Avoid insults to your teeth with clenching or grinding. If you grind your teeth in sleep (a medical condition called bruxism), wear a mouth guard when your sleep to protect your teeth.
  • Avoid acidic foods especially if you have sensitive teeth. These will further aggravate the problem. Similarly avoid too hot or too cold foods or liquids. Not only will the pain be excruciating, you will also damage your teeth further.
  • See your dentist at least twice in a year. Regular cleaning and inspection of your teeth and gums can detect plaque, periodontal diseases or cracked or chipped teeth.
  • If the above measures are ineffective your dentist may go for procedures like inlay or bonding or replacement of the crown. Your dentist may also suggest fluoride gels or varnish to be applied to the exposed parts of the teeth.
  • If your gums have receded severely from the teeth, your dentist may want go in for a surgical procedure involving placement of a gum graft over the affected area. If the problem persists, you may even have to go for a root canal treatment. This involves removal of the sensitive nerve ending. Without the nerve there is no pain. The dentin and its canals are sealed to prevent penetration of the heat or cold.

 

- Link of interest: Twitter Sensitive Teeth – Dental Treatment.

 

This article is not medical advice nor a substitute to professional health advice. Always consult a doctor.

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