Teeth Sensitivity – Signs and symptoms, Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Sensitive Teeth?

Ice cream is an all time favourite for most. However, some people cringe at the very thought of consuming and enjoying it. This is because, the moment ice cream touches their teeth; they feel a sharp, shooting sensation sometimes accompanied by pain. The first sip of hot coffee does the same. Sometimes, even sweet stuff and acidic foods cause mild teeth sensitivity.

This is dentinal hypersensitivity, commonly known as teeth sensitivity. It affects the teeth or exposed root surfaces.

Signs and symptoms

Teeth get a sensation or pain on consumption of hot or cold stuff;it is teeth sensitivity. This sharp, shooting and unpleasant sensation stops after the withdrawal of the trigger causing it. Depending on the severity, the pain caused due to teeth sensitivity can disappear immediately, or it may last for several minutes.

Causes

In most cases, teeth sensitivity can be traced to the lack of good oral hygiene. Teeth develop sensitivity to hot and cold foodstuffs and beverages. It is important to know the structure of the teeth, so as to better understand this issue. The visible portion of the teeth, above the gum line, is called the crown. Root is present inside the gum.5

The crown is covered with a layer of enamel which extends slightly inside the gum. The enamel is a translucent, mineralised material and is the hardest tissue of the human body. Inside the enamel, and extending down to the tip of the root (or roots) is a layer of dentin which is also hard. Inside the dentin layer and extending along the length of the tooth root is a cavity called the pulp chamber.

The pulp contains nerve endings and blood vessels. In healthy teeth, these nerve endings are insulated from temperature (hot and cold), tastes (sweet and acidic), thereby not affecting the nerve endings. The junction of the root and the crown is a weak zone. If a faulty brushing technique is followed, this zone is the first to lose its integrity, exposing the inner dentine. This results in weakened insulation, thus giving rise to teeth sensitivity.

1) Teeth Cavities

Normal architecture of the teeth is lost, exposing dentine, resulting in cavities and teeth sensitivity.

2) Gum Recession

Receded gums, as a result of gingival or periodontal inflammation, exposes root surfaces, thus causing teeth sensitivity.

3) Faulty Brushing Technique

A hard-bristled toothbrush or applying too much force while brushing destroys the enamel of the teeth exposing the dentine, causing sensitivity and recedes the gum line. Therefore, ensure appropriate use of a toothbrush and technique to clean the teeth.

4) Erosion

Consumption of highly acidic foods results in eroding the enamel. Another reason for erosion is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

5) Broken or Fractured Teeth

One or more broken or cracked teeth, during sports or an unfortunate accident, also lead to teeth sensitivity.

6) Fluoride Deficiency

Unbalanced or fluoride deficient food and water are another cause for dentinal hypersensitivity.

7) Parafunctional Habits

Bruxism or the habit of teeth grinding leads to teeth sensitivity.

Prevention

Prevention of teeth sensitivity is possible by eliminating the cause. Following measures prevent teeth sensitivity:

1) Good oral hygiene

Good oral hygiene consists essentially of keeping the mouth clean. Regular brushing and flossing of the teeth are mandatory.

2) Brushing

This must be done at least twice a day for two minutes each time. The time should be evenly divided among all the teeth, but giving a slight priority to the rear teeth. The outer, inner, and chewing (top and bottom) surfaces of the teeth must be given due time and consideration.

3) Flossing

Flossing cleans between the teeth, with the help of an interdental cleaning aid. The toothbrush is unable to clean the surfaces effectively in between adjacent teeth. The floss comes in the form of a thread or a tape.

4) Rinsing

If brushing is not possible after eating food or snacks, it is an excellent habit to rinse your mouth with water, which dislodges food particles and debris.

5) Balanced Diet

This is an excellent preventive measure not only for oral health but also for overall health. Sugar and fat rich foods must not dominate the diet. Particles of sugar and fat adhere to the teeth and gums, which are easily converted into acids. The Acidic environment of the mouth promotes demineralisation of the enamel, gradually leading to teeth sensitivity.

6) Fluoride

The optimum fluoride content in the food and water consumed inhibits enamel loss.

7) Regular dental visits

These are imperative as a final preventive measure. One cannot be sure that the personal efforts are effective in ensuring all aspects of oral health.The trained eye of the dentist easily detects defects and spots any early signs of disease progression.Timely corrective action like fluoride treatment or dietary supplements is advised.

8) Teeth Guard

The habit of grinding teeth, especially at night, causes wear and tear of the enamel, on the biting surfaces of the molars, causing sensitivity.Teeth guard fabricated by the dental technician on the dentist’s instructions are helpful in preventing teeth sensitivity.

Treatment

The following measures can be adopted:

At Home

1. Use a special desensitising toothpaste containing fluoride to promote tooth remineralisation and strontium chloride, potassium nitrate and Triclosan to prevent dentinal hypersensitivity.

2. Use a fluoridated mouthwash once or twice a day.

3. With use, the bristles of a toothbrush tend to get stiffer and fray out. Replace the toothbrush every 2-4 months. Prefer a soft bristled tooth brush. Adopt proper brushing technique.

4. Adopt a healthy, balanced diet eating habit with multi vitamins supplements.

5. Avoid teeth grinding.

At the Dentist’s Office

Taking measures listed above do provide an advantage, it is always best to seek professional help. Get an appointment immediately.

1) Fluoride Application

The dentist performs a necessary cleaning and applies fluoride varnish to the affected teeth. Fluoride application has been shown to strengthen teeth and to prevent sensitivity.

2) Fluoride Iontophoresis

This technique improves the mineralization of the teeth. An electric current passes through the teeth, thereby depositing a layer of fluoride, closing the dentinal tubules.

3) Restoration of Exposed Teeth Surfaces

Exposed teeth surfaces that cause sensitivity of the teeth are restored by removing the carious lesions and closing it with a proper dental filling.

4) Treatment of Fractured Teeth

Fractured or chipped teeth are restored back to their normal shape and function, so as to prevent any chances of teeth sensitivity.

5) Root Canal Treatment

If the problem remains unresolved with the aforementioned treatments, the dentist may advise an RCT.

6) Crowns

Crowns prevent teeth sensitivity arising due to teeth exposure, acting as a shield to the external factors.To live with teeth sensitivity is living in discomfort and pain. Teeth sensitivity prevents one from enjoying favourite foods too. Hence, without wasting time, a visit to the dentist solves the underlying problem of teeth sensitivity.

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