What causes sensitive teeth?

Most people have experienced sensitive teeth at some point in their lives. If you notice a twinge or a sharp pain when drinking hot or cold liquids or after eating anything sweet then you have teeth sensitivity.

This sensitivity can range from a twinge or two through to a sharp pain which lasts for hours.

What causes teeth sensitivity?

It is caused by your gums receding to the point that the dentin (the second layer of your tooth underneath the enamel) is exposed as well as the nerves. If hot or cold liquids touch these nerves then you will feel pain or discomfort.

There are several causes for sensitive teeth which include:

  • Excessive brushing: if you brush your teeth too vigorously or use a toothbrush which is too hard then this can cause gum recession. It can also wear away the outer layer of the tooth.
  • Bruxism: grinding your teeth can wear away the enamel and cause heightened sensitivity.
  • Cracked or chipped teeth: if you have a tooth which is cracked or chipped then this can allow bacteria to enter the pulp and cause inflammation.
  • Gum disease: this is a very common condition which can expose the surface of the roots and allow bacteria to reach the nerves.

There are two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.

  • Age: you are more prone to sensitivity between the ages of 25 to 30.
  • Teeth whitening: teeth whitening is a very popular procedure for stained or discoloured teeth. However, some patients find that they experience teeth sensitivity as a result of this treatment.
  • Diet: if your diet is high in sugar or starches then these can wear away the outer layer of the tooth.
  • Dental treatment: there are some procedures such as crown fittings or root planing which can cause teeth sensitivity. However this only lasts for a short period of time.
  • Gender: women are more prone to teeth sensitivity than men.

Your dentist will be able to diagnose any sensitivity. In some cases he or she may advise you to have root canal treatment. This may sound alarming but root canal surgery is a lot less painful than in the past and is a highly effective treatment.

Treatment for sensitive teeth

Treatments can include using a fluoride rinse or gel for the teeth, a filling or a de-sensitising product. Root canal surgery is recommended for cases of severe nerve damage. If you are prone to teeth grinding then he/she will look at ways of treating that.

Can you prevent teeth sensitivity?

It can be prevented if you follow a few easy instructions. These include:

  • Using a toothbrush with soft bristles
  • Brush and floss the teeth daily
  • Reduce your sugar intake
  • Try to reduce your teeth grinding or wear a mouth guard (if you suffer from nocturnal bruxism)
  • Avoid undue pressure on your teeth
  • Ask about sensitivity if you are having teeth whitening done
  • Use a good fluoride toothpaste (ask your dentist about this)

One of the best ways of preventing tooth sensitivity is to brush and floss your teeth every day and use an antiseptic mouthwash.

Common Dental Problems Guide Index:

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