What causes tooth sensitivity?
The dentine, which is the inner layer of a tooth, contains microchannels that lead to the pulp where the nerves are. This underlying dentine is protected by a tougher layer of enamel in a normal situation, with the remaining root dentine covered by gums. Enamel wear (by attrition, abrasion and erosion), cavities, cracks and receding gums may lead to exposed dentine. When in contact with hot, cold, sweet or acidic food and drinks, as well as cold air, teeth sensitivity occurs.
How to prevent the condition
1. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
A toothbrush with hard bristles may wear down enamel and cause gums to recede.
2. Prevent gum disease
It can lead to bone loss and gum recession, which may then result in sensitive teeth. Make sure to visit your dentist as scheduled, on top of brushing and flossing daily.
3. Avoid chewing ice cubes or eating hard or brittle food
This may lead to a cracked tooth. Consuming too much acidic food or drinks may also erode the enamel.
4. Minimise the use of teeth whitening or bleaching products
This can wear down the enamel and lead to sensitive teeth.
Managing your sensitive teeth
6. Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth
Purchase these off-the-shelf from most pharmacies or supermarkets ― they work by blocking the microchannels of exposed dentine.
7. Try professionally-applied desensitising pastes/varnishes/sealants
Available at dental clinics, these effectively target the exposed dentinal microchannels as well. Although the applications may wear off over time from brushing and normal functioning of teeth, these can be reapplied when you visit your dentist.
8. Get fillings if you have deeper abrasions and cavities
In most cases, there’ll be immediate relief from sensitivity after the fillings are completed.
9. Consider gum grafting
Gum recession as a result of incorrect brushing can be resolved by a minor procedure of gum grafting and repositioning of the gums. Your dentist can assess if you are suitable for this procedure. In extremely severe cases of sensitive teeth and after all options have been considered, your dentist might recommend root canal therapy for the affected tooth or teeth, based on your condition.
Dr Low Yi Han, a periodontist, practises at Thomson Specialist Dentistry.
This article first appeared in the June/July 2018 issue of Thomson Medical’s Celebrating Life magazine.
You may also like…