Sensitive teeth: causes, symptoms, treatments and more

Sensitive teeth, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, is a common condition in which the teeth become painful or uncomfortable in response to stimuli such as hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks.

Sensitive teeth are usually caused by the exposure of the softer inner layer of the tooth (dentin) due to gum recession, enamel loss, or cracking of teeth. The most common symptoms include sharp, shooting pain in the teeth when exposed to hot or cold temperatures, or sweet or sour foods.

Whilst worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots are the most common causes of sensitive teeth, there are other factors that can also lead to tooth discomfort including a cavity, cracked or chipped tooth, a worn filling, or even gum disease.

All of these can lead to tooth discomfort and sensitivity so whilst you can treat tooth sensitivity at home (see below), if the problem persists, it is always best to book an appointment with your dentist sooner rather than later so they can assess the cause of the tooth sensitivity.

Symptoms of sensitive teeth

Whilst the causes of sensitive teeth can vary, there are symptoms that will be similar, no matter the cause of the sensitivity. As the name would suggest, the main symptom of sensitive teeth is a sensitivity when your teeth are exposed to hot or cold food or drinks, however, there are other symptoms that can also persist including:

  • Sharp pain or sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks
  • Pain when brushing or flossing
  • Tingling or discomfort in the teeth
  • Increased pain when exposed to cold air
  • Aching pain in the teeth that lasts for a short time after eating or drinking

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is recommended that you see a dentist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Whilst you can manage the symptoms of sensitive teeth with home remedies (see below), it is always better to understand the underlying cause of the sensitivity to ensure you are treating it in the best possible way.

Treatment for sensitive teeth

Treatments for sensitive teeth can vary, depending on the cause and severity of the problem. Some common treatments include:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste: A toothpaste that contains compounds that help to block the transmission of sensations of pain from the tooth to the nerve. Look out in the supermarket for toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
  • Fluoride: Fluoride treatments, either in the form of gels, varnishes, or rinses, can help to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity.
  • Bonding or veneers: In some cases, bonding or veneers can be used to cover exposed dentin and reduce sensitivity.
  • Root canal: If the sensitivity is severe, a root canal procedure may be needed to remove the damaged nerve and pulp from the tooth.
  • Lifestyle changes: Avoiding foods and drinks that trigger sensitivity and using a soft-bristled brush can help reduce the symptoms of sensitive teeth.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of sensitive teeth, try some of these treatments above, however, in some cases, sensitive teeth can be a symptom of a more serious dental problem, such as decay or gum disease, and prompt professional treatment from your dentist is essential to prevent further damage to your teeth.

Preventative treatment for sensitive teeth

In addition to the treatments mentioned above, there are some other measures that can help manage sensitive teeth, and even prevent them from developing or recurring, such as:

  1. Brushing properly: Brushing your teeth gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush and using a fluoride toothpaste can help reduce sensitivity.
  2. Flossing daily: Flossing removes plaque and food particles that can contribute to gum recession and tooth sensitivity.
  3. Avoiding tooth whitening products: Tooth whitening products can cause increased sensitivity in some people. It is best to talk to your dentist before using them to make sure they are suitable for your teeth or come and see us for professional teeth whitening treatment.
  4. Avoiding overly acidic foods and drinks: Foods and drinks that are high in acid content can weaken tooth enamel and cause sensitivity.
  5. Using a mouthguard: If you grind your teeth at night, a mouthguard can help protect your teeth from further wear and reduce sensitivity.

It’s also important to have regular dental check-ups to monitor the condition of your teeth and gums, and to address any changes that may be contributing to sensitivity.

In some cases, sensitivity may be temporary and go away on its own, but in other cases, it may be a sign of a more serious underlying issue that requires treatment. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, it’s best to talk to your dentist to determine the best course of action for you.

In summary

Many people suffer from sensitive teeth at various times in their life. Sometimes, this can be temporary and can be treated at home, however, like all dental and oral health concerns, if problems persist, you should always book in to visit your dentist for a professional assessment.

Sensitive teeth can be managed at home in most cases, however, when there is a bigger underlying issue, sensitive teeth can be an early warning sign and not one to be ignored.

Our experienced team of dentists treat each case of sensitive teeth individually as no two cases are usually the same. We will recommend the best treatment path for you, helping to reduce the discomfort caused by sensitive teeth as well as putting in place preventative measures to stop the issue from developing in the future.

Sensitive teeth can develop at all stages of life and can also come and go throughout your life. It’s important not to think that the cause of sensitive teeth will be the same throughout your life so please come and see us if you are experiencing discomfort.

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