Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentine hypersensitivity, typically occurs in a minority of the population. However, those who chronically suffer from it can attest to the extreme discomfort and inconvenience of the condition.
What Triggers Tooth Sensitivity?
The most common trigger for tooth sensitivity is cold. You’ve probably had, at one time or another, the experience of biting down on a frozen treat or drinking an iced beverage on a hot day, and feeling a shooting pain radiate from a tooth deep into your jaw. If so, then you you’re familiar with dentine hypersensitivity.
Although cold food and drinks are the most common culprits, people can also experience tooth sensitivity from eating hot food or drinking hot beverages, breathing in cold air, or eating sugary foods. Have you ever bitten down by mistake on some aluminium foil that was stuck to a piece of food? Ouch! There is nothing quite like the feeling of tooth pain.
What Are the Causes of Tooth Sensitivity?
Dentine hypersensitivity usually occurs in people from the ages of 20 and 50. It can be caused by a number of factors, including receding gums, gum disease, brushing your teeth too vigorously, and grinding your teeth. Some people experience this as a chronic condition, while others only suffer from an occasional twinge of pain or discomfort.
Anything that wears away tooth enamel can result in tooth sensitivity. This includes brushing your teeth too hard, or ingesting too many acidic foods or drinks. Grinding or clenching the teeth can also erode enamel over time. Receding gums can also cause more of the vulnerable surface of the teeth to be exposed, below the level of the enamel. This condition can be a result of periodontal (gum) disease such as gingivitis.
Preventing and Treating Tooth Sensitivity
As always, prevention is the best medicine. When it comes to preventing dentine hypersensitivity, your best bet is to get into good habits of oral hygiene, as young as possible. Regular brushing and flossing will help to protect the tooth enamel and gums.
It’s important not to use a toothbrush with super hard bristles. Using a toothbrush that is too hard, or merely brushing too vigorously, can actually hurt your teeth more than help them, as either will, over time, wear away your enamel. Brushing firmly but gently, with a soft bristle toothbrush is now the standard recommendation of most dentists.
Acidic foods and drinks such as fruit juices and anything that contains vinegar, as well as sugary soft drinks, can also contribute to a wearing-away of tooth enamel. Consume these products in moderation, and get into a practice of rinsing with water afterwards.
Try to avoid grinding or habitually clenching the teeth. Besides wearing away the enamel, it can also create jaw pain and tension headaches. If this is a problem for you, your dentist may recommend a night time mouthguard to wear while you are sleeping.
Use fluoridated toothpaste and mouth rinse, to help make enamel strong and more resistant to wear and tear. Some people even like to use a sensitivity toothpaste, such as the popular brand Sensodyne, to help relieve the uncomfortable sensations of this condition.
Finally, always remember to visit your dentist for a regular check-up and professional cleaning. This will help to address any problems in the making and give you good preventive advice.