Most of us will experience some form of tooth sensitivity at some point in our lives. Our teeth become sensitive when the enamel becomes damaged or worn. This exposes the underlying dentine, which contains small tubules that lead directly to the nerves in your teeth. There are several reasons why enamel can become damaged:
While it’s essential to brush your teeth regularly and thoroughly, brushing harder is not better for your teeth. If you scrub your teeth, especially just after eating when your enamel is softer, you risk gradually wearing it down. Your enamel is a little thinner towards the gum line, so this is usually the area where you’ll first feel the impact of over-enthusiastic brushing.
Acids and sugar in your diet can, over time, wear away tooth enamel through a process known as demineralisation. While your body has natural defences against this, if you are consistently eating a lot of sugary and acidic foods, you can cause permanent damage to your enamel.
A little gum recession is normal as we age, but it can also occur due to gum disease, aggressive brushing and poor oral hygiene. When the gum recedes, it exposes the root of your teeth, causing pain and sensitivity in the area. It’s essential to brush and floss thoroughly and see your dentist for regular check-ups to prevent the risk of premature recession,
Tooth enamel is robust, but grinding your teeth can wear your enamel down and expose the sensitive nerves. People often grind teeth subconsciously, or while we’re asleep, so stopping can take a lot of effort. Specific lifestyle changes can help, or your dentist can provide you with a custom-made mouthguard to wear at night to prevent grinding while sleeping.
Treating sensitive teeth
We’ve already talked about how to prevent sensitive teeth, but how do you treat sensitive teeth when you already have them?
Most cases of sensitive teeth can be treated using a specially designed toothpaste — these block the tubules that lead to your nerves.
If toothpaste for sensitive teeth doesn’t help, you may need a stronger, prescription-strength toothpaste or treatment with a fluoride varnish. It’s also vital that you treat the underlying cause where possible, whether that’s poor oral hygiene, decay or damaged teeth.
We may refer severe cases to an endodontist, who will make sure there are no problems with the pulp or nerves inside your teeth.