Get to the root of teeth sensitivity – Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Written by Dr Amrita Jain

December 19, 2019

Teeth SensitivityYou might be wondering if you’re the only one suffering or is it normal to experience teeth sensitivity? Sensitivity can be experienced while having anything that is hot, cold, sweet or even when you breathe in from your mouth. Not all sensitivity problems need treatment. Sensitivity to some extent is experienced by everyone. But if it is severe then your dentist might help you with knowing whats the cause as well as provide you with treatment options.

Sensitivity can either range from affecting a single tooth to affecting all your teeth. Severe sensitivity affecting all your teeth can be irritating and frustrating. Hence getting to the root cause of sensitivity is very essential.

What is the difference between tooth pain and sensitivity pain?

Sensitivity is when the pain occurs only after the stimulus to cold and heat. Sensitivity pain lasts for a few seconds and goes off when the stimulus is removed. Tooth pain is a more severe type of pain that can range from a dull pain to sharp shooting pain. A person suffering from tooth pain can have sleepless nights, disturbed sleep, pain while chewing food, pain while drinking normal water, etc. The tooth pain lasts from a few minutes to even hours or days.

Why do we suffer from teeth sensitivity?

The uppermost layer of the tooth is called enamel. The enamel is like a helmet that protects the underlying structures of the teeth. Protecting this enamel is very important as once the enamel is lost it cannot regrow again. Below this enamel is the yellow dentin which when exposed to any stimulus sends pain signals through the nerves which reside in the dentinal tubules. There are so many reasons and factors responsible for sensitivity.

Find out your reason for tooth sensitivity:

a] Are you clenching your teeth?

Many people have a habit of grinding or clenching their teeth while concentrating or during their sleep. Due to this, there is friction between both the surface of the teeth that are in contact. The friction causes the wearing of the enamel layer of the tooth exposing the super sensitive dentin.

b] Brushing too hard -abrasion

Brushing too aggressively causes friction between the bristles of the toothbrush and the surface of the teeth again causing the enamel layer to wear off. This abrasion of the teeth is seen as small pits and ditches on the tooth. Due to these ditches, the underlying dentin is exposed and sensitive to cold, heat, sweet or any stimulus.

c] Tooth decay

Caries activity starts from the enamel layer progressing towards the inner layers of the tooth. Once it reaches the dentin layer of the tooth the tooth becomes sensitive.

d] Drinking acidic foods and beverages

The acidic content in the foods and beverages can harm your teeth. It can cause erosion of the enamel and can be one of the reasons for your sensitivity. Severe stomach acidity and GERD can also harm your teeth by causing erosion.

e] Naturally shrinking of gums

As you grow older the gums show some changes like becoming loose and shrinking. The gums recede down exposing the roots of the teeth. The roots of the teeth are very much sensitive to cold or heat.

f] Gum infections

The tartar buildup and plaque which gets accumulated between the gums and the tooth irritate the gum tissue. This causes the gums to leave its attachment with the tooth and recede down. once the gums recede down it paves way for more plaque to accumulate. This cycle goes on exposing the roots of the teeth causing your teeth to become more and more sensitive. Gum abcess and tooth abcess can also give you the interpretation of having tooth sensitivity.

g] Cracked tooth/fractured tooth

A crack in the tooth while biting something very hard is one of the most common reasons for single tooth sensitivity. The nerve endings are suddenly exposed and pain signals are carried to the brain. A fractured tooth or a chipped tooth also become sensitive as the enamel that protects the tooth breaks off.

h] Fillings

Some degree of tooth sensitivity is expected after tooth coloured fillings. This is because when we drill the tooth to remove caries and fill the tooth with completely new material some of the contents might leach out and irritate the nerves. This type of sensitivity after fillings lasts for 7-10 days.

i] After cleaning and polishing

Most of the people experience sensitivity in their teeth after cleaning and polishing. This is because the area near the gums is made free from all the tartar and plaque deposits which were previously forming a layer on the tooth. Because of the tartar deposits, the underlying tooth structure is prevented from getting exposed to cold or heat stimulus. But if we do not clean our teeth that is much worse.

j] Take a break from teeth whitening

Whitening your teeth is nothing but bleaching them to become more white and bright. Previously many whitening agents which were available in the market had known to cause teeth sensitivity. One of the reasons for this being the bleaching agents in the whitening kits were known to irritate the dentin layer of the tooth. But with newer kits available the whitening kits in the market these days have proved to cause lesser or no sensitivity.

What’s with Single tooth sensitivity?

If you experience sensitivity only in one of the tooth your dentist might prescribe you a sensitivity gel (SenolinSF gel)to be applied on that particular tooth. If it subsides then there is no need to go for extensive treatment. However, if it does not resolve then your dentist might give you the option of placing a cap or a crown over it.

Sensitivity in more than 3-4 teeth

The primary line of treatment would be using milder toothpaste like Senquel-F, Thermoseal toothpaste, Sensoform etc.  For severe sensitivity, one can use the Vantej toothpaste as prescribed by the dentist. The sensitivity toothpaste acts by leaching out the contents from the toothpaste and blocking the nerves in the dentin tubules that carry the pain signals.

The best home remedy for teeth sensitivity

Recent studies prove oil pulling with either edible pure coconut oil or sesame oil may help reduce tooth sensitivity. Oil pulling is a preventive measure to stop the plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth. It also prevents tooth cavities and gum infections.

Guava leaves, garlic saltwater rinses capsaicin gel and turmeric are also known to reduce tooth sensitivity to some extent.

Why not get rid of your teeth sensitivity once and for all?

1) Make sure your toothpaste contains fluoride. Fluoride prevents tooth cavities by bonding with the enamel crystals and making your teeth more stronger. Don’t forget to floss your teeth.

2) Avoid drinking and eating acidic food and beverages.

3) Ask your dentist to make you a nightguard or mouthguard to protect your teeth from grinding against each other. If you’re into any kind of sports activity and are more prone to accidental falls and injuries wear mouthguards to protect your teeth from fractures.

4) Don’t brush your teeth very hard. Brush your teeth gently and slowly to avoid causing harm to your teeth as well as your gums.

5) Visit your dentist in case you accidentally bite anything hard or gotten your tooth chipped or fractured.

6) Avoid teeth whitening very often.

7) Visit your dentist every 6 months for cleaning and polishing even if you are not suffering from any kind of dental problem.

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Dr. Amrita Jain is a practicing dental surgeon since 4 years. She completed her B.D.S in 2016 and was has been a rank holder throughout her course. She suggests “Holistic dentistry is the best dentistry”. Her treatment line follows a conservative pattern which means saving a tooth is of utmost priority and preventing your teeth from getting decayed rather than curing it with a root canal treatment. She inculcates the same while consulting her patients. Apart from her interest in clinical practice, she has developed interest in research and writing over a period of time. She states “It is my clinical experience that motivates me to write and spread dental awareness”. Her articles are well researched with a combination of technical knowledge and clinical experience.
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