Most people with sensitive teeth usually experience frequent discomfort when eating or drinking very cold or very hot food or drinks. This discomfort manifests itself as a sharp, shooting pain that is transmitted through the dental nerves inside teeth.
Tooth sensitivity occurs when the protective outer layer of the tooth called enamel gradually erodes, exposing the underlying softer layer called dentin. The dentin contains plenty of microscopic channels filled with fluid. These tiny channels or tubules have nerve endings attached to them. Eating or drinking very hot, cold or sweet food or drinks induces movement in the fluid inside these microscopic tubules. The nerve endings attached to these tubules then transmit this movement as a short, sharp twinge of pain.
Reasons for Sensitive Teeth
There could be many reasons for tooth sensitivity. Using a hard-bristled toothbrush or brushing too hard or too frequently can cause the enamel to wear out over time. Eating too much citrus fruits like lemon and orange can cause the enamel to degenerate due to the strong acid content in these fruits. Gum disease or gingivitis also leads to weakened gum tissue and exposes more of the dental root surface below (which is part of the dentin), causing tooth sensitivity. Involuntary teeth grinding during sleep (bruxism) or just clenching teeth in response to stress at the workplace or elsewhere can be reasons for enamel erosion as well. Sometimes such sensitivity occurs as a result of using the wrong type of toothpaste or mouthwash. Whatever the reason for tooth sensitivity, the following are some of the ways to find relief from this painful condition.
Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
There are quite a few brands of toothpaste available in the market that offer relief from sensitive teeth. Typically, these work to make the tooth less sensitive by re-mineralizing the enamel lost and covering up the microscopic tubules. The type of brand that is most effective depends on the particular user. Usually, toothpaste meant to remove tartar or whiten teeth can aggravate the condition. Instead, it is advisable to use toothpaste containing fluoride. Just before going to bed, a thin layer of this toothpaste can be applied to the exposed areas of the affected teeth. Rinsing the mouth with fluoridated water or mouthwash can also help control enamel deterioration. Care must also be taken to see that the toothbrush used for brushing does not have bristles that are to hard.
Foods that can Cause Sensitivity
Particular types of food can weaken the dental enamel due to high acidic content. Foods containing high amounts of sugar and starch can be harmful as well. The residual sugar and starch that remains in the mouth can react with plaque, forming more acids. So, it is important to limit the consumption of these types of food. Subsequent to consuming such food, it is better to brush teeth immediately. Eating food rich in nutritional value can improve overall health including oral health.
Grinding or Clenching of Teeth
If involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth during sleep, that is bruxism, is a problem, it is essential to consult a dental professional. A solution for bruxism could be using a mouth guard procured from a dentist. If stressful conditions during the day induce teeth clenching or grinding, it would make better sense to avoid as much as possible such stressful conditions.
Good Oral Hygiene
Maintaining good dental hygiene is the best way to prevent enamel loss that leads to sensitive teeth and other more serious dental issues. It is important to brush at least twice a day and floss regularly to keep teeth and gums in good shape. Visiting a dentist for regular checkups at least twice a year is invaluable for early detection of impending dental problems.