If you experience a sudden sharp sensation in your teeth while eating hot or cold foods, you are likely dealing with a sensitive tooth. For some people, this slight discomfort or sharp pain can also occur when their teeth are exposed to sweet or sour foods or while breathing cold air.
While the pain caused by teeth sensitivity is typically sudden and temporary, it can cause discomfort or be a warning sign of other oral health issues and needs to be addressed by a dentist. Teeth sensitivity can affect only one, some, or all the teeth. Tooth sensitivity can have various reasons and can be treated with different dental treatments
Layers Of A Tooth
How about first we tell you a little about your teeth’s structure? You will then better understand why and how your teeth become sensitive.
Your teeth are protected by several protective layers such as Tooth Enamel, Dentine, and Pulp.
The surface of each tooth is covered by a thin but tough outer covering called enamel. Enamel is a tooth’s first line of defence against damage, bodily fluids, and harmful acids found in acidic foods and drinks.
This tough shell protects the softer inner layer of the tooth called dentine. Your tooth enamel must be protected by the proper daily cleaning and a healthy diet.
Dentine is another layer of the tooth (the middle layer) that lies right beneath the enamel. Dentine makes up the bulk of the tooth, is softer but more porous than enamel and can transfer messages (heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods) to the tooth’s nerve endings. Dentine has many tiny tubules. These small canals connect with the dental pulp, the innermost layer of a tooth.
The pulp lies at the centre of your tooth underneath the dentine and is protected by this layer. Pulp is alive, has large nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues, and needs protection from damage and infection.
Once enamel is damaged, it cannot repair itself or be regrown. Damaged tooth enamel can no longer support the dentine layer and causes the dentine to be exposed. The exposed dentin typically causes tooth sensitivity or dentin hypersensitivity.
Prevent Tooth Sensitivity
Is there anything I can do to prevent or reduce tooth sensitivity?
Make sure you visit your dentist or paediatric dentist in Brisbane as soon as possible if your teeth have become sensitive. Meanwhile, you can use these tips to prevent or lessen tooth sensitivity.
- Maintain good oral hygiene
- Good oral hygiene includes brushing teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day.
- Arrange a regular dental visit to ensure dental health.
- Ask your dentist if you need a mouth guard to prevent teeth grinding from damaging your teeth.
- Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid overzealous brushing.
- Do not brush your teeth right after having acidic foods or drinks.
- Limit your intake of sugary foods and drinks.
Symptoms of Tooth Sensitivity
Having sensitive teeth can feel like experiencing a sudden sharp pain while the teeth are exposed to stimuli. The pain can sometimes feel like a shooting pain that goes deep into tooth nerve endings.
Sensitive teeth may show you some signs when being exposed to:
- cold or hot foods
- brushing or flossing
- very sweet foods
- acidic or sour foods
- cold air
Treating Sensitive Teeth
Your dentist will perform a thorough oral examination to find the root cause of your tooth sensitivity during a dental visit. Based on the real cause of teeth sensitivity, the dentist may suggest the following treatment options:
You can switch to desensitizing toothpaste if your teeth have become sensitive lately. The ingredients in desensitizing toothpaste can stop the stimuli from triggering the tooth by creating a barrier over the sensitive areas of the tooth.
The dentist may apply fluoride gels or varnishes to the exposed root surfaces to provide protection and reduce sensitivity.
Dentists may use dental bonding if they realize a flaw or cavity has been causing sensitivity. During the procedure, the dentist will apply a tooth-coloured resin to an exposed root surface to create more protection for the tooth and reduce pain and sensitivity.
Surgical Gum Graft
In some cases, gum graft surgery is required to protect the exposed roots if the patient has lost a significant amount of gum tissue.
If none of the mentioned treatments works, the dentist may have to perform root canal therapy to remove the nerves of the teeth. Dentists perform root canals under a local anaesthetic to minimize pain or discomfort.
Read more: Root Canal Treatment and root canal indications
Chipped Or Cracked teeth
A chipped or cracked tooth needs to be addressed urgently because it can cause tooth discomfort or lead to other oral health concerns.
Food debris and harmful bacteria can travel through these cracks and fractures and reach deeper layers of your teeth, making them sensitive or even leading to tooth pain.
The peroxide or baking soda in teeth whitening products may be the underlying reason behind your sensitive teeth. If you desire a whiter smile, talk to your dentist to suggest the best treatment to whiten your discoloured teeth.
Recent Dental treatment
Experiencing sensitive teeth may be due to recent dental procedures such as dental fillings, root canals, placing dental restorations, or dental cleaning. Tooth sensitivity after dental treatments will go away after a few weeks. You can talk to your dentist or paediatric dentist if the sensitive tooth pain lingers.
Sometimes loose fillings can cause teeth sensitivity.
Causes of Sensitive Teeth
Now that you are familiarized with the different layers of a tooth let’s learn the factors that can compromise the health of these protective layers and lead to tooth sensitivity.
Applying too much pressure while brushing your teeth or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can seriously damage your tooth enamel. Enamel erosion or tooth erosion can cause the underneath layer to be exposed and lead to dentine sensitivity.
Poor oral hygiene and inadequate tooth brushing can lead to plaque build-up on your tooth surface and along the gum line. The early stages of tooth decay may be causing sensitivity or even dental pain, which requires urgent dental care.
Eating and drinking acidic foods very often can wear away the enamel over time, expose the dentin, and make your teeth sensitive.
Gum recession occurs if the gum tissue pulls back from the teeth, exposing the teeth’ root surfaces. Exposed tooth roots can cause pain and tooth sensitivity.
Receding gums can result from periodontal disease, which causes your gums to become inflamed. Gum disease or periodontal disease will typically occur due to plaque buildup in the mouth.
If you are a teeth grinder, you probably experience pain or tooth sensitivity from time to time. Well, no wonder! Your teeth’ enamel can wear down gradually due to the pressure from teeth grinding.
Dig deeper: Teeth Grinding.