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Sensitive Teeth (Dentin Hypersensitivity)

Dental problems are common at any age but some conditions become more prominent with age as lifelong wear and tear take its toll. The outer layer of the tooth is the enamel. It withstands constant stresses and strains during eating and drinking, as well as with daily cleaning and dental procedures. The part of the tooth normally embedded in the gums does not have enamel. The inner layer known as the dentin is exposed and it has tiny channels that reach to the nerve of the tooth in an area called the pulp. When these nerves are stimulated or irritated, one feels pain in the teeth. This is commonly referred to as sensitive teeth.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth arises for various reasons. Most of these causes are more likely to occur in adulthood. In fact, the highest risk age group for sensitive teeth is between 25 to 30 years of age. The condition may persist throughout life. Some of the causes of sensitive teeth includes:

  • Gum problems like gum inflammation (gingivitis) and receding gums.
  • Brushing too heard and eroding the enamel.
  • Teeth grinding and clenching.
  • Tooth decay near the gum line and cracked teeth.
  • Poor dental hygiene leading to the build up of plaque.
  • Use of certain dental care products such as mouth washes and teeth whitening products.
  • Certain dental procedures like bridge and crowns where the enamel is purposely eroded to fit the prosthetic.
  • Acidic foods and drinks may wear down the enamel if consumed on a regular basis.

Symptoms of Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth, which is medically known as dentin hypersensitivity, is marked by tooth pain. The pain is usually not constant but felt when the teeth are exposed to :

  • Hot and cold drinks
  • Cold air
  • Wind
  • Acidic or sweet foods

There may be various other triggers. Usually the pain is severe but short-lived if the trigger is quickly removed. It may drastically hamper eating and drinking habits as a person is extremely cautious about avoiding the painful episodes.

Prevention of Teeth Sensitivity

The key is preventing sensitive teeth before it arises. Using a soft bristled toothbrush, avoiding teeth grinding and using dental care products with fluoride are important preventative measures. Good oral hygiene and regular visits to the dentist are essential for preventing hypersensitivity and detecting it early to correct the problem at the outset. People suffering with sensitive teeth have to make lifestyle changes by avoiding certain foods and drinks that tend to trigger the pain.

Treatment of Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth is reversible to some extent. If the gums can cover up the exposed dentin then the pain will ease. There are various dental treatments that can help prevent pain and either temporarily or permanently close the channels that lead to the pulp. However, once the enamel itself is compromised then dental procedures are usually needed.

White fillings, dentin sealers and fluoride can also help cover the roots. The treatment options should be discussed with a dentist. Underlying gum disease will also need to be treated appropriately for the condition to resolve. A desensitizing toothpaste can be used on a regular basis to decrease sensitivity but is usually not a permanent solution.


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