For millions of people, sensitive teeth can make life miserable. The pain and discomfort make even favorite hot or cold foods impossible to enjoy. All is not lost. In many cases, sensitive teeth can be successfully treated bringing long sought after relief.
Sensitive teeth (Dentin Hypersensitivity) are characterized by a tingling sensation or sharp shooting pain that occurs when you consume food or drink that is very cold, hot or sweet.
Is a taste of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee sometimes a painful experience for you? Does brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally? If so, you may have a common problem called “sensitive teeth.”
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. Some people have sensitivity when they have sweet or acidic food and drink. The pain can come and go, with some times being worse than others.
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.
Your dentist will look at your dental history and will examine your mouth. will ask about your oral habits because grinding or clenching your teeth can contribute to sensitivity. Your dentist also will look for tooth decay, deep metal fillings and exposed root surfaces.
Dentists have a variety of regimens to manage tooth hypersensitivity, including both in-office treatments and patient-applied products for home use. If you are diagnosed with dentin hypersensitivity, your dentist may apply a desensitizing agent or a protective coating.
You may be prescribed a stannous fluoride gel or an over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste containing fluoride and either potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. These ingredients help block transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve. It also might help to massage the special paste onto your gums with your finger after brushing.
How to Prevent Sensitive Teeth:
- Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste. Use small circular movements with a soft- to medium-bristled brush. Try to avoid brushing your teeth from side to side.
- Change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if it becomes worn.
- Have sugary foods, and fizzy and acidic drinks less often. Try to have them only at mealtimes.
- If you grind your teeth, talk to your dentist about the possibility of having a mouthguard made to wear at night.
- If you are thinking about having your teeth bleached, discuss sensitivity with your dentist before starting treatment.
- Visit your dentist at least once a year for a check up.