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Surbiton Dental 395 Ewell Road Surbiton Surrey KT6 7DG

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Tooth Sensitivity – Cause, Prevention & Treatments

21 July 2020

Having sensitive teeth can mean anything from getting a mild twinge to having severe discomfort that can last for several hours.

It can also be an early warning sign of more serious dental problems.

Many people suffer from sensitive teeth and it can start at any time. It is more common in people aged between 20 and 40, although it can affect anyone from teenagers to people over 70. Women are more likely to be affected than men.

The part of the tooth we can see above the gum 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.

Here are some causes of sensitivity.

Toothbrush abrasion – brushing too hard, and brushing from side to side, can cause enamel to be worn away, particularly where the teeth meet the gums. The freshly exposed dentine may then become sensitive.

Dental erosion – this is loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks. If enamel is worn away, the dentine underneath is exposed which may lead to sensitivity.

Gum recession – gums may naturally recede (shrink back), and the roots will become exposed and can be more sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.

Gum disease – a build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and can even destroy the bony support of the tooth. Pockets can form in the gum around the tooth, making the area difficult to keep clean and the problem worse.

Tooth grinding – this is a habit which involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive.

Other causes of pain from sensitivity may be:

A cracked tooth or filling – a crack can run from the biting surface of a tooth down towards the root. Extreme temperatures, especially cold, may cause discomfort.

Tooth bleaching – some patients have sensitivity for a short time during or after having their teeth bleached. Talk to your dentist about this before having treatment.

To help tooth sensitivity

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with a fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. 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 for you to wear at night.
  • If you are thinking about having your teeth bleached, talk to your dentist about sensitivity before starting treatment.
  • Visit your dentist regularly, as often as they recommend.
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