Tooth sensitivity

Many people would have experienced a sharp pain or discomfort when they drink cold water, have sweet and sour food or drinks, or even breathing in cold air. The pain is usually of very short duration and can happen on more than one tooth.

Is sensitive teeth a common problem?

It can affect more than half the population. As people live longer lives and keep their natural dentition longer coupled with the consumption of many types of processed food, there will be more people seeking treatment for this irritation.

What is the cause of tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is caused by the gradual exposure of the dentine layer.

Dentine is usually covered by enamel on the crown part of the tooth. At the root part the dentine it is covered by mainly bone and at the upper by gums.

Dentine has tiny tubules that are connected to the nerves in the pulp of the tooth and are filled with fluid.

Eating or drinking foods and drinks that are hot, cold or sweet can cause a change in fluid movement. This fluid movement causes the nerve endings to react in response, triggering a short, sharp pain.

What are the causes of tooth sensitivity?

Factors that can lead to the exposure of dentine are the usual causes of tooth sensitivity:

  1. Aging
    Even though the population is ageing rapidly , with good dental care the majority of us are keeping our natural dentition. Except for the wisdom teeth all our teeth have erupted by the time we are 11 years old. As time goes by the teeth will wear down with use.However the height of the tooth in the mouth is not reduced drastically. This height is maintained by the very slow but continuous eruption of the root. Thus the dentine now is exposed not only by wearing away of the enamel on top of the tooth but also exposed roots.
  2. Gum disease, which can result in gum recession
  3. Caries and dental treatment
  4. Cracked tooth
  5. Acid
    The acid can be due to food especially sour food and even wine. A less common source can be from gastric reflux.

Treatment of tooth sensitivity

Recent advances in toothpaste technology have brought a great amount of relief to the majority of the sufferers. These anti-sensitive toothpaste have ingredients  that are able to block up the dentinal tubules. However this relief is not permanent.

If such toothpastes are not effective, one should consult your dentist. Your dentist will be able to locate the source of the irritation and also give you the necessary treatment and dietary advice.