Tooth sensitivity refers to a painful or uncomfortable tingling that one feels upon consuming hot or cold foods like ice cream or coffee, breathing cold air, eating sour or sugary foods, touching the teeth, etc. It is one of the most common tooth related problems the world over, and most of the patients are in the age group of 25-45.
Types of Tooth Sensitivity
Dentinal Tooth Sensitivity: Our teeth have four layers: enamel, dentin, cementum, and pulp. When the layer of enamel which protects the dentin and the pulp is eroded, irritants can reach tubules that form the dentin causing sensitivity or nerve irritation. Some of the causes behind enamel erosion are: excessive intake of acidic foods or beverages, bulimia, acid reflux, receding gums, using a hard toothbrush, dental procedures, cracked teeth, teeth grinding, poor oral hygiene, etc.
Pulpal Sensitivity: The pulp is a mass of nerves and blood vessels located at the center of the tooth. Pulpal sensitivity is when the tooth’s pulp is affected by tooth decay, clenching or grinding of teeth, tooth filling, or a cracked tooth.
Managing tooth Sensitivity
Some of the ways to prevent or reduce tooth sensitivity are:
- Using desensitizing toothpaste: These toothpastes block transmission of sensations from dentinal tubules to the nerve. Apart from brushing with such a toothpaste, one should also apply it in small amounts over the sensitive areas, and leave it overnight.
- Using a soft toothbrush: Sensitivity is at times a result of brushing with a hard toothbrush, or simply brushing too hard, thereby wearing dental enamel or causing gums to recede. Using a soft bristled toothbrush can stop further damage to teeth enamel.
- Visiting a dentist: If sensitivity does not go away in a few days, it is advisable to see a dentist who can examine your teeth, and take an x-ray, if required. The dentist will also enquire about your oral hygiene habits, grinding problems, if any, and check if the sensitivity is a result of decay, fillings, or exposed tooth roots. Dentists may help you with certain treatments that take place in his office, or he may suggest dental products that need to be applied at home.
- If on examination, you are found to have dentin hypersensitivity, he or she may apply a protective coating or a desensitizing agent over the sensitive areas. Your dentist may also prescribe stannous fluoride gel or toothpastes containing ingredients like fluoride, potassium nitrate or strontium chloride. If you are suffering from pulpal sensitivity, you may require a root canal treatment as well as a dental crown or cap. Your dentist may also give you a plastic night guard, if you are in the habit of grinding or clenching teeth at night.
- Avoiding irritants: If you are experiencing sensitivity in your teeth, it is best to avoid acidic foods, flavored toothpastes and medicines causing hypersensitivity (check with your doctor first).
If you’re troubled by tooth sensitivity, meet with your dentist today!