WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
This pain is tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity should not be taken lightly as it may be a symptom of something developing in a tooth such as decay, a broken filling, or a dental abscess. Tooth sensitivity can have many different causes.
The good news is that most tooth sensitivity is a condition known as dentin hypersensitivity and can easily be managed. Only a dentist can make a detailed examination and a proper diagnosis for someone encountering sensitivity, so consult your dentist – you do not have to put up with this painful condition!
HOW IS IT CAUSED?
The most common form of tooth sensitivity is dentin hypersensitivity, which occurs when either the gum recedes to expose some of the root of the tooth or there is some loss of enamel, the hard outer coating of the crown of the tooth. In both cases, dentin is exposed to the mouth, and dentin is sensitive especially to cold, but also heat, touch, and sugary or acidic foods and drinks.
Figure: Gum recession exposes the sensitive roots of the teeth.
Figure: The left image is of teeth recently emerged into the mouth, fully covered with dental enamel. The right image shows moderate erosion with sensitive dentin exposed, as enamel is lost.
Other less common causes of tooth sensitivity are dental decay, broken fillings, brand new fillings, periodontal treatment, or tooth whitening.
HERE’S WHAT TO DO:
If the pain does not occur very often and is not too severe, try changing to anti-sensitivity toothpaste (same as desensitizing toothpaste) and Sensitive toothbrush with ultra-soft bristles. This should provide relief after a few days’ use. Brush thoroughly and do not avoid any sensitive areas to make sure that the medication in the toothpaste can reach where it is needed and also that all dental plaque is removed, as this can make the sensitivity worse. Avoid acidic foods and juices and whitening or anti-tartar toothpastes. Certain mouth rinses are acidic and may also contribute to sensitivity.
If the pain of sensitivity does not go away after about four weeks’ use of the anti-sensitivity toothpaste and an ultra-soft toothbrush, consult a dentist. The dentist can investigate the cause and can provide several other options to relieve the cause and the symptoms.
During your next routine dental visit, ask your dentist or dental hygienist about oral hygiene techniques, the selection of the most appropriate toothbrushes, and other aids to relieve sensitivity.