In Singapore, dentists reported 4 out of 10 patients complain of sensitive teeth.

The reason why the prognosis for sensitive teeth has barely improved for the past decade is that most sufferers do not inform their dentists about the issues they are facing. “It is clear that the condition is having a significant impact on the lives of sufferers, yet is not being effectively treated,” says Charlie Parkinson, director of medical affairs at GlaxoSmithKline.

Understanding Sensitive Teeth

Pain from sensitive teeth can be triggered by various stimuli: such as by extreme hot or cold temperatures, pressure, and various types of sweet or sour food. Teeth sensitivity can be triggered simply from taking a short breath through the mouth. The magnitude of the pain can vary from dull to sharp, throbbing pain. While the pain eventually stops after a while, that does not mean the underlying problem has gone away.

Teeth sensitivity can stem from numerous factors. It is crucial to understand possible causes of teeth sensitivity to raise awareness and help people understand the importance of regular dentist checks.

One reason for tooth sensitivity is exposure of the dentine and roots; the part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and tissue. Cracked or eroded enamel; the hard part of the tooth that protects it, exposes these sensitive parts, causing pain.

Teeth sensitivity can also be a symptom of a larger problem:

  • Teeth grinding: Some people suffer from a condition called bruxism, a involuntary muscle movement during sleep that causes you to grind your teeth. Tooth grinding is not uncommon, especially in younger children. The grinding action wears the tooth structure, causing what is known to be Attrition Cavities.
  • Root canal: Persistent tooth sensitivity can also be a symptom of a lingering infection at the root canal, or even a root fracture.
  • Periodontal diseases: As one remains untreated with gum diseases, the bone level supporting the tooth is lost. This situation is also known as recession. As the gums is attached to the bone, when bone is reduced, the gums lower as well. As this happens, the microtubules on the root surfaces of the tooth are exposed. Thus, causing hypersensitivity when you take hot/cold items.
  • Oral hygiene and diet: Gum recession can also be a sign of low oral health. Brushing your teeth too hard or vigorously causes the gums to recede and expose the inner tooth layer of dentine, causing what is known to be Abrasion Cavities.

Acidic foods can also cause a lost in tooth structure. It temporarily cause the tooth structure to be soft, thus by brushing too early after an acidic meal, you are literally brushing away your tooth structure. Tooth decay from bad oral hygiene is another, more obvious cause of sensitivity.

  • Teeth whitening: The excessive use of tooth whitening treatments can cause teeth sensitivity. Commonly referred to as “bleaching sensitivity”, it arises from substances in tooth whitening procedures that can harm your tooth or your gums if not done correctly.

Is there any way to prevent sensitive teeth?

Good oral hygiene like brushing gently twice or more a day and flossing can help keep your teeth and gums strong and well into old age. Use toothbrushes with soft bristles to avoid being too abrasive to your teeth and gums. You can also reduce acidic food drinks intake, or use a straw.

What can my dentist do about sensitive teeth?

Dentists prescribe different treatments, depending on the cause of sensitivity. The least invasive method is to use a desensitizing toothpaste.

For people with bruxism, they can prescribe mouth guards to wear while you sleep to protect against wearing of tooth structures.

For people with receding gums, sometimes, dentists can do fillings to cover the exposed dentine or root areas to reduce sensitivity. In more severe cases, dentists may want to do gum grafts.

The first step, though, is to visit your dentist. The dentist will first properly diagnose the possible causes of teeth hypersensitivity in your case. Then the dentist then will look at what are factors contributing to the causes of teeth hypersensitivity, such as brushing techniques and diet.

If you are experiencing unspecified, intermittent tooth pain in otherwise healthy looking teeth, you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity. At Dental Focus, our dentists can pinpoint the causes of your tooth sensitivity. Book an appointment now to consult with our dentists about the right course of treatment.