What causes tooth sensitivity?


Under normal conditions, the underlying dentine of the tooth (second layer of the tooth structure) is covered by the enamel crown and the gums that surround the tooth. Over time, the enamel can get thinner, thus providing less protection. The gums can also recede over time, exposing the underlying root surface dentine, which causes tooth sensitivity.

The dentine contains a large number of pores running from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the centre. When the dentine is exposed, these tubes can be stimulated by changes in temperature or certain foods.

  • Exposure of the dentine can occur due to a number of factors, including;
  • Gum recession due to age or improper tooth brushing or gum disease
  • Having a cavity (a hole) in your tooth
  • Having dental calculus (yellowish deposits that get attached to your teeth due to poor hygiene)
  • Acidic beverages that cause enamel erosion
  • Tooth grinding
  • Brushing with a very abrasive toothpaste and brushing incorrectly
  • Gum disease, which can result in gum recession
  • A chipped or fractured tooth may also expose the dentine
  • Others may include dental treatments such as teeth whitening and use of some filling materials (if placed directly to deep cavities).

The first step in treating sensitive teeth is to find out what the cause is. If the sensitivity is due to exposed dentine, you can reduce it by:

  • Using a very soft bristle tooth brush
  • Professional cleaning of teeth
  • Filing of teeth with cavities by use of dental filing material.Brushing correctly to help prevent abrasion of the enamel and recession of the gums
  • Using a toothpaste specifically formulated to help reduce sensitivity.

Your dental professional can also apply a fluoride varnish on the sensitive areas to help strengthen the tooth and prescribe a high fluoride tooth paste to use every day or place a dental restoration to build up the areas that have lost enamel.

Sensitivity resulting from dental fillings should be reported to your dentist so that another form of treatment is provided. However, should not buy any medicines or mouth washes without the dentist orders or advice.


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