Dealing with tooth sensitivity
Ice cream, coffee and smoothies are some of the wonderful things in life that can be painful triggers for tooth sensitivity. This is a condition characterised by a tingly feeling or a sharp pain affecting all teeth, certain areas of certain teeth or all of one or more teeth.
The second layer of your teeth is made up of dentin; tooth sensitivity occurs when dentine becomes exposed. The dentin has microscopic channels called tubules, which are pathways to the nerve inside your tooth. When these tubules are exposed, nerves are more easily triggered by certain stimuli (such as cold beverages) which then in turn causes tooth sensitivity.
Causes of tooth sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity may be caused by one or more of the following scenarios:
You are brushing your teeth too hard: Many people approach their dental hygiene with the mentality of “give ‘em a good scrub!” While their intentions are well-meaning, you should take care to not damage your teeth when cleaning them. Hard-bristled toothbrushes have no place in your bathroom (unless you are using them to scrub the grout in between the tiles!). By using a hard-bristled toothbrush and a haphazard brushing routine you can wear down the protective layers of your teeth and expose the dentin. Instead, you should use a soft bristled toothbrush and think of “massaging” your teeth rather than “scrubbing” them.
You are a tooth grinder: Tooth grinding can be a symptom of stress, and usually happens during sleep (that is a blog topic for another day!). This habit can lead to tooth sensitivity as it wears down the enamel and exposes the dentin. If you are a tooth grinder, chat to your dentist about how to kick this habit or treat it is it occurs in your sleep.
Teeth whitening toothpaste: A bright white smile seems very appealing until the effort to obtain one causes tooth sensitivity! Many manufacturers add tooth-whitening chemicals to their toothpaste formulas, and some people are more sensitive to these ingredients than others. If your toothpaste contains whitening agents, consider switching to one that doesn’t.
Your tooth is damaged: if your tooth is cracked or damaged by decay, you may experience tooth sensitivity as a result. If your dentist evaluates your tooth and determines that this is the cause of your tooth sensitivity, he/she will be able to remedy the cause and provide you with relief.
What can be done
If your tooth sensitivity is mild, some at-home solutions will likely be effective. These come in the form of over-the-counter fluoride rinses, gels and toothpastes that can make the root nerve less sensitive or build a protective coating to cover the tooth surface. It is important to note that these formulas don’t work for everyone.
If your sensitivity is more severe, you may need to pay a visit to your dentist. If your sensitivity is due to decayed or damaged teeth, your dentist will be able to treat your tooth and as a result, provide you with some relief.
Simply being aware of the issue and practising some caution with hot or cold beverages and foods can go a long way in living with tooth sensitivity. If you feel that your tooth sensitivity is quite extreme, it is always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your dentist.