Is the sensation of a cold ice cream or sipping a hot cup of tea painful? Having sensitive teeth is a common problem that can cause a lot of discomfort, which can unfortunately make some of the simplest joys in life unpleasant. You don’t have to suffer with this condition, however, as your dentist can provide you with a number of treatment options.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is the result of the wearing down of the enamel, which exposes the soft dentin underneath. When the dentin becomes exposed, the tooth becomes sensitive. This can be caused by:

  • General wear and tear due to aggressive brushing or the use of a hard-bristled toothbrush.
  • Age. Teeth are the most sensitive between the ages 25 and 30
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease, which causes the gums to recede and expose the roots of the teeth
  • Teeth whitening products
  • Acidic food such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and pickles and can damage the enamel of teeth, resulting in sensitivity
  • Long-term mouthwash use. Some mouthwash products are highly acidic which damages the enamel. It is best to use neutral fluoride mouthwashes
  • Dental work including crowns and tooth restorations can make teeth sensitive, although this is usually only temporary

What can you do?

If you experience tooth sensitivity, make an appointment with your dentist. A range of treatment solutions will be discussed, which may include the following:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste: switching toothpastes is one of the easiest treatment solutions. This blocks the pain
  • Fluoride: to strengthen tooth enamel, fluoride may be applied to the affected tooth or teeth. Your dentist will apply the fluoride and may also prescribe it for you to use at home
  • Bonding: Sometimes applying a bonding resin to exposed root surfaces can treat sensitivity
  • Surgical gum graft: If your gum has receded extensively, a surgical gum graft may be necessary. This procedure involves taking a piece of gum from elsewhere in the mouth and surgically grafting it to the exposed area to reduce sensitivity and other dental issues
  • Root canal: As a last resort and if other treatments are not successful, a root canal might be recommended, which will treat the cause of the sensitivity in the tooth’s core

Prevention

Maintaining oral health is the key to preventing tooth sensitivity. Ensure that you brush and floss regularly with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and avoid hard scrubbing as this can wear the enamel down. Avoiding acidic food and drinks or ensuring that you rinse your mouth after the consumption of these is also recommended to maintain neutral acid levels in the mouth.