Dentine hypersensitivity, more commonly referred to as “sensitive teeth” is the sensation of sharp pain in teeth experienced when drinking a hot or cold beverage, ice-cream or foods such as sweets. With some people who suffer from sensitive teeth even breathing in cold air can cause an intense shooting pain in the teeth. The pain can come from a single tooth or several and the condition can range from mild to severe pain.
Tooth sensitivity is a very common dental complaint that can affect anyone at any time. According to Colgate, a leading professional oral health brand estimates that over 70% of the adult population may experience tooth sensitivity.
What causes sensitive teeth?
The condition of sensitive teeth develops when the protective layer of tooth enamel wares away or cracks, exposing the dentine. The condition can also be caused by receding gums where the dentine becomes exposed because there is no protective tooth enamel below the gum line. The exposed dentine has thousands of microscopic hollow tubes or canals called tubules that lead directly to the centre of the tooth where the nerves are.
It is the exposed dentine that causes the pain associated with sensitive teeth (Dentine hypersensitivity) as hot or cold temperatures from consumed drinks, foods and air are able to travel down the tubules to stimulate the tooth nerves.
Why do some people have sensitive teeth?
There are many things that can lead to sensitive teeth. One that might surprise you is over brushing, or brushing too hard. Brushing your teeth with too much pressure can ware away the protective enamel and can also cause gums to recede. Both of these consequences can result in exposed dentine and pain.
At the other end of the scale, poor oral hygiene can lead to sensitive teeth for several reasons. Failure to brush your teeth properly can cause a build up of plaque on the surface of teeth. If the plaque is not brushed away it will become tartar and at this point will release acids that corrode tooth enamel. At the same time a build of plaque can lead to gum disease which will cause gums to separate from the tooth dentine.
Anything that can ware teeth enamel away will lead to sensitive teeth. Things such is applying too much pressure, poor oral hygiene, grinding teeth, sugary drinks and sweets are all common culprits.
Other things such as the over use of some teeth whitening products can also lead to dentine hypersensitivity.
Are there any good cures for sensitive teeth?
The first thing you can do is prevent the development of sensitive teeth by preventing the ware or damage to tooth enamel. One cause of enamel ware is down to brushing too hard. A good electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor would eliminate this problem.
As mentioned previously, another cause of sensitive teeth is gum disease. To prevent gum disease we need to ensure that our teeth are free from the built up of plaque. Again, using an electric toothbrush can clear more plaque compared to manual brushing. In fact, our best electric toothbrush guide, the Oral B triumph 5000 is proven to remove twice as much plaque.
Using an electric toothbrush can reduce the risk of developing sensitive teeth because of the built in pressure sensor, is more effective at plaque removal and also helps the user follow a good brushing routine with a built in timer and brush head renewal alert.
If you already happen to suffer from sensitive teeth then an electric toothbrush can still be of help. Many high quality electric toothbrushes such as an oral B triumph 4000 have a sensitive setting and brush heads that are specially designed for people with dentine hypersensitivity.
There are also good de sensitizing toothpastes on the market that are worth trying as people do report improvements from these.
If symptoms persist seek professional help from a dentist. They will be able to offer more effective treatments such as dental sealants, fluorides, potassium nitrate or oxalate which are not available as home treatments.