Sensitive Teeth (Hypersensitivity) Causes, Treatment, Prevention

Sensitive teeth (dentine/dentinal hypersensitivity) is the discomfort or pain in the teeth from eating certain foods or drinks and other stimuli. At times it can affect just one tooth but often many teeth are sensitive. The hypersensitivity can be so severe that even breathing in air, particularly cold air, through the mouth can cause pain.

Causes of Tooth Hypersensitivity

The outer part of the tooth known as the enamel serves as protective layer. When the enamel becomes eroded, the inner dentin is exposed to the environment. Small tubules from the dentin run deep into the tooth where the pulp is located. This contains the nerve of the tooth. Any food, drink, pressure or changes in temperature that makes contact with this area will result in pain.

Some of the causes of sensitive teeth includes :

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Brushing too long, too hard or too many times in a day
  • Tooth whitening products, toothpaste
  • Excessive use of mouth wash
  • Grinding the teeth
  • Gingivitis (gum disease)
  • Receding gums
  • Acidic drinks
  • Tobacco chewing
  • Frequent vomiting which is common in eating disorders like bulimia
  • Acid reflux

Treating Sensitive Teeth

The treatment for hypersensitivity is limited. A dentist can use bonding materials, fillings, sealers and varnishes to cover up the exposed surfaces.

However if the erosion of the enamel is widespread, this may be a laborious task. With proper dental hygiene and dietary changes, the problem may settle over time. Tooth cavities should be attended to immediately and regular visits to a dentist is therefore essential. Using special toothpastes specifically developed for sensitive teeth will help desensitize the area.

Prevention of Sensitive Teeth

  • Don’t brush too hard. Moderate pressure is sufficient to clean your teeth.
  • Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. Any specks of food that cannot be reached by a toothbrush will be removed by flossing.
  • Speak to your dentist about a good toothbrush with soft bristles. Cheaper brushes may have hard bristles which can erode the enamel of your teeth.
  • If you have acid reflux, speak to your doctor about treating it because the rising acid can erode the teeth.
  • See your dentist at least twice a year. Good dental health is important in preventing sensitivity.
  • If you grind or constantly clench your teeth, you should ask your dentist about a bite guard.
  • Avoid foods that are known to cause pain and avoid drinks that can damage your teeth.