Dealing With Sensitive Teeth

Illustration by: Ji-Young Park

Dentin hypersensitivity, or tooth sensitivity, is commonly known as the feeling of acute discomfort or pain in the teeth. This often occurs when there are abrupt changes in temperatures and it can be seen as a temporary or chronic issue. Sensitive teeth can cause certain activities like drinking, eating, and brushing to be very difficult.

Sensitive teeth are typically the result of exposed tooth roots or worn tooth enamel. Sometimes this kind of discomfort is also caused by other factors like gum disease, a worn filling, a cracked or chipped tooth, or even a cavity. Most people suffer from tooth sensitivity because their enamel wears off over time; the enamel is the outer covering that protects the teeth. Several reasons can explain why the enamel weakens and wears off include:

  • Brushing the teeth too vigorously
  • Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
  • Grinding the teeth at night
  • Regular intake of acidic beverages and food

Additionally, it has been recognized that broken or chipped tooth, tooth decay, and worn down crowns or fillings can leave the dentin of the tooth exposed. This can cause sensitivity in a particular region of the mouth. Temporary sensitivity is also caused by dental works like bleaching and fillings. In this case, the teeth treated and the surrounding area will be sensitive for several days, but will eventually reduce on its own. 

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If you or someone that you know is experiencing tooth sensitivity for the first time, then it is advised to schedule an appointment with a dentist. They will look at the health of the teeth and check the potential causes like loose fillings, recessed gums, or cavities that could be the issue. The dentist can perform this check-up during the routined dental cleaning session. They can do a visual exam or touch the teeth using any dental instruments for knowing the point of sensitivity. They can also advise for X- rays to rule out the chances of cavities.

Treatment procedures

Depending on the diagnosis, the dentist can recommend the following methods:

  • Using desensitizing toothpaste at least twice a day can help in reducing the pain and discomfort for those who have sensitive teeth. There is a vast variety of products available over the counter and the dentist can recommend something that would best suit the needs of the patient. 
  • Fluoride can be applied to strengthen the enamel and parts of the sensitive areas of the teeth to reduce the pain. The dentist can also recommend prescription fluoride that can be applied using a custom tray.
  • Desensitizing and bonding the teeth by applying bonding resin to the sensitive root surfaces can be done to reduce the pain. A local anesthetic can be used as well. 
  • A surgical gum graft may be suggested to help protect the roots. This is done by transplanting gum tissue to the affected areas from other parts of the mouth. This can also help to reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal surgery might sound like a significant treatment, but it is regarded as one of the most successful techniques for eliminating the sensitivity in the tooth.

Conclusively, tooth sensitivity needs specific changes in the lifestyle and oral hygienic habits of the person as well. Drinking plenty of water after eating acidic foods to balance the acidity and brushing after consumption are some of the minute changes that can have a substantial effect on the sensitivity of teeth. As always, we recommend scheduling an appointment with your dentist immediately if the discomfort prolongs.