Does eating ice-cream make you wince? Perhaps you find yourself avoiding certain foods and drinks? If having hot, cold, sweet or sticky foods and drinks, or breathing in cold air causes you trouble, you may have sensitive teeth. So, what are the possible causes and how can we reduce these symptoms?
Scrubbing teeth with too much pressure
Using too much force, especially with a hard-bristled toothbrush can wear down the enamel on your teeth and damage the thin gums around them. Over time, the thin enamel gets worn away and you might find the inner dentine layer of teeth becomes exposed. As there are microscopic channels in dentine which lead to dental nerves, the result would be sensitivity and discomfort. It is advisable to switch to a medium or soft toothbrush and be less aggressive during tooth brushing, not scrubbing horizontally.
Acidic foods and drinks
If enamel is eroded away by acidic food and drinks, the little pathways to your nerves are exposed and become irritated. Frequent consumption of carbonated drinks, citrus fruits, juices and highly acidic foods can result in loss of enamel which act as a protective layer of teeth.
Even though enamel is the strongest substance in your body, it can be worn away through habitual grinding of teeth. If you do grind your teeth, it is recommended that a custom-made mouth guard be made for you to reduce the rate of tooth wear. Severe cases of bruxism may expose the nerves inside teeth as the enamel and dentine is worn off.
Receding gums due to gum disease
Severe gum disease (Periodontal disease) leads to bone loss and gum recession around teeth. When the root surfaces of teeth are exposed to external stimuli, tooth sensitivity can develop. It is important to treat the gum disease to prevent the condition from worsening and the dentist can suggest ways to alleviate the sensitivity.
If you are having sensitivity to hot, cold or sweet foods and drink, there is a likelihood that you might have dental decay. Old fillings can weaken with wear and tear, fracture, or leak around the margins. Plaque can build up in these small crevices, leading to decay around the edges of fillings. Regular visits to the dentist ensure that your fillings and teeth are assessed for signs of decay and treated in the early stages.
Cracked, chipped or broken teeth
Trauma to teeth can cause them to chip or crack, leading to loss of the protective enamel layer and the exposure of the dentine or pulp which can cause a lot of sensitivity and discomfort. Fillings can be placed to restore teeth and the dentist will advise what treatment options are available based on the extent of the trauma.
Using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth can help alleviate the sensitivity after multiple uses. If your sensitivity is extreme and persists, you should see a dentist to diagnose what the causes are and to advise on the best way to manage the sensitivity.
Life is too short to not enjoy that occasional ice-cream.
Dr. Low Ee Lyn
BDS (London), MJDF RCS (Eng), MFDS RCS (Ed)
Associate Dentist at Malo Clinic Nuffield Dental Serangoon Gardens