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Solving Sensitive Teeth

Most patients will suffer with sensitive teeth at some point in their life, whether they have just bitten into food that is too cold or even too hot, or whether the problem is more serious and their teeth have become damaged. Women aged between 20 and 40 are most likely to suffer with sensitive teeth although anyone can be affected at any time. Sensitive teeth often cause patients a fair amount of discomfort and certain activities, such as brushing, flossing, eating or drinking can cause sharp and (luckily) temporary pain in the teeth. Whilst the pain is only temporary it can impact negatively on a patients life, therefore sensitive teeth are an issue that needs treatment, sooner rather than later.

Often sensitive teeth are the result of tooth enamel that has worn away or tooth roots that have become exposed. Sometimes other causes may be present, such as cavities, a cracked or chipped tooth, recent fillings or a side effect of other dental procedures, the most common being teeth bleaching/whitening. Gum disease can often also cause increased sensitivity in teeth, as a build-up or plaque or tartar can cause gums to recede and can even, in severe cases, destroy the bony support of the tooth. Gums can also naturally recede causing the roots to become exposed and therefore more sensitive as root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.

The first point of call if you feel you have sensitive teeth is to visit your dentist for a check-up, as they can check for any underlying causes and diagnose these if there are any. Some treatments that your dentist might recommend, depending on the different causes that may be affecting a patients teeth, are:

  • Desensitizing Toothpaste- There are specific toothpastes that are available to patients that can help to block the pain associated with sensitive teeth.  These toothpastes can take anything from a few days to several weeks to take effect.
  • Fluoride- Your dentist can apply fluoride to the areas of your teeth that are sensitive in order to strengthen tooth enamel therefore reducing the pain. Patients are also able to get fluoride on prescription for use at home, should they need to.
  • Bonding (Desensitizing)- Exposed root surfaces that are so often the cause of sensitive teeth can be treated by applying bonding resin to the sensitive root surface, however local anesthetic may be needed in some cases.
  • Surgical Gum Graft- Gum tissue can be taken from elsewhere in your mouth and attached to a tooth root that may have lost gum tissue. This treatment can protect exposed roots and reduce sensitivity in turn.
  • Root canal- In severe cases, where other treatments may not have been effective, a root canal may be suggested. This procedure is considered the most successful treatment for eliminating tooth sensitivity as it involves removing infected tissue from your tooth, cleaning the root canal and then filling it to prevent further damage or infection.
  • There are things that a patient can do to prevent sensitivity returning or recurring, often these are simple oral health techniques and tips that are easy to implement and maintain. Brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste is the most effective way to keep sensitivity and other dental issues at bay. Flossing daily is also beneficial as it can clean and protect areas that an ordinary toothbrush may not be able to ordinarily reach, especially along the gum line where plaque can often build up. It is recommended that you floss before you brush your teeth, as this way the fluoride from the toothpaste has a better chance of reaching between the teeth and protecting these areas. Vigorous scrubbing, highly abrasive toothpastes and over flossing can all have an adverse effect on teeth as it can wear down enamel, irritate your gums and even cause cavities, which can all lead to the increased sensitivity of your teeth. If you grind your teeth be aware that this can sometimes fracture teeth and in turn cause sensitivity, talk to your dentist about the possibility of wearing a mouth guard to prevent this.

    Acidic food and drink can aid the removal of tooth enamel over time, all be it in small amounts, which can be detrimental to your dental health, therefore limiting the amount of carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, wine and even yogurts you consume can benefit your teeth. If limiting these types of food and drink seems achievable there are ways to avoid some of the damage they can cause, drinking with a straw can limit the contact that acidic drinks have with your teeth and drinking milk or water after you’ve consumed an acidic substance will help to balance the acid levels in your mouth. Patients should also avoid brushing their teeth immediately after eating or drinking acidic substances and the acid can soften enamel therefore making your teeth more vulnerable to erosion during brushing.

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