Do you find having a cold drink or ice cream hurts your teeth? Do acidic or sweet foods set off pain in your teeth? Most people will experience some form of sensitivity at one point or another in their lifetime.
What causes sensitivity?
There are many causes of tooth sensitivity. Firstly it is important to see your dentist regularly so he/she can advise you on a specific cause as it could be due to decay, tooth fracture or worn fillings. Another cause is worn enamel, the outer shell of the tooth surface, which often happens due to erosion (from acidic foods) or grinding/clenching your teeth. Gum disease may be causing your sensitivity and this means a trip to the dentist is important to have not just your teeth checked, but your gums too. Gum disease can cause your gums to recede which in turn exposes the root of your tooth. The root of your tooth is made up of dentine, which is like a hard sponge, it has a lot of holes in it that are connected to the nerve in the tooth. Root exposure could be the cause of your sensitivity because the nerve of your tooth can be reached by hot and cold foods.
How will the dentist help me?
If your dentist finds decay or broken teeth, they will be able to advise on the best treatment for you to help fix the problem. If you or your dentist suspect grinding/clenching then you may be offered a night guard to help and hopefully ease your discomfort. Your dentist will not only check your teeth but also your gums for any signs of gum disease and if needed, may recommend a visit to a hygienist for help. There are treatments the dentist may offer to help severe sensitivity due to root exposure such as covering of the area with filling material or trying a sealant or varnish high in fluoride which may help.
How can I help myself?
If your enamel is thinning due to erosion then you should adjust your diet to avoid acidic foods/drinks and limit them to mealtimes. The use of a straw when having fizzy drinks will also help prevent further damage. There are many desensitising fluoride toothpastes available, which block the thermal transmission to the nerve. A good tip is to apply these topically when having sensitivity, and also apply before bed to strengthen and block the holes in the root dentine. It is important to have good oral hygiene at home to help and prevent sensitivity, which includes brushing twice daily and carrying out interdental cleaning everyday. It is important to ensure you are not brushing too hard as this will cause damage to your gums and expose the root surface.
Your dentist and hygienist will deliver oral hygiene and diet advise if needed and will be able to recommend products for you to use, to help and prevent your sensitivity.
Finally, it is important to make sure you always visit your dentist and hygienist regularly. The frequency of your visits should be catered to your specific needs and can be recommended by the dental professionals.