- Sensitive Teeth

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Sensitive Teeth PDF Print E-mail


For millions of people, sensitive teeth can make life miserable. Hypersensitivity may be defined as an uncomfortable or painful reaction in one or more teeth triggered by hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods and drinks. This pain can be sharp, sudden and shoot deep into the nerve endings of your teeth. This condition often happens when gums recede (shrink downwards) and/or cementum covering the root is not present anymore. The gum tissue acts like a protective covering to cover the roots of the teeth. As the gum tissue shrinks downwards the roots are slowly uncovered. This will expose the dentin of the root area which has many microscopic channels or tubes directly connected to the nerve inside the root canals. It is believed that these little channels can serve as sensory conductors to the nerve.

Causes of sensitivity:

  • Improper brushing techniques: Brushing too hard over a period of time using hard-bristled toothbrushes may abrade or wear away enamel or cementum and cause the root dentin to be exposed.
  • Night grinding or clenching causes abrasion of the top surfaces of the teeth enamel that may also expose dentin.
  • Gum recession - Downward shrinking of gums may be due to a continuous cycle of swelling and healing of the gums. Gum diseases like gingivitis and periodontal disease will eventually cause the root surface to get exposed after a period of time.
  • Acidic foods such as citrus fruits and softdrinks may cause erosion of tooth surfaces near the gum line.
  • Cracked, chipped or broken teeth may expose dentin. These areas may get filled up with bacteria from plaque and enter the pulp causing a swelling reaction of the pulp.
  • Old fillings with “leaks” may provide pathways for bacteria to enter the dentin and pulp.
  • The presence of plaque on the root surfaces can cause sensitivity due to acids produced by bacteria in plaque.

Home Care:

These are some suggestions that may help prevent or minimize tooth hypersensitivity:

  • Proper oral hygiene - Continue to clean all surfaces of your teeth and mouth thoroughly. Do not forget to floss since toothbrush bristles may not reach the areas between teeth like dental flosses do.
  • Proper brushing techniques: Continue to practice brushing gently and carefully around the gum line so you do not remove more gum tissue or continue to abrade the tooth surface
  • Use soft bristled toothbrushes: This will also help minimize toothbrush abrasion of the tooth surface.
  • Note what you eat and drink: If you frequently eat foods and drink fluids high in acids, such as citrus fruits (like calamansi or dalandan) and softdrinks, they can gradually dissolve the enamel over time, leading to dentin exposure. The citric acids may also aggravate the hypersensitivity and initiate a painful reaction. Avoid these highly acidic foods as they can also work against the effects of desensitizing toothpastes. Avoiding very cold foods and drinks may also help.
  • Use desensitizing toothpastes: They work by covering or blocking the open tubules/channels in the exposed dentin. This process helps block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the pulp. They need to be used for 4-6 weeks before improvements can be observed.
  • Use fluoridated dental products: Daily use of a fluoridated mouthrinses can significantly reduce hypersensitivity. Fluoride helps remineralize the tooth surface making the tooth stronger. It also acts to block the dentinal tubules.


Professional Care:

Ask your dentist, about dental treatments that may be used to help reduce sensitivity. Some of the most common treatments are as follows:

  • In order to avoid teeth grinding and clenching a dentist may fabricate a nightguard/occlusal guard for you. This will prevent further abrasion of enamel and dentin.
  • Have your teeth professionally cleaned (oral prophylaxis or scaling and polishing).
  • Ask for proper oral hygiene instructions, proper brushing and flossing techniques from your dentist.
  • Request for fluoride treatments if the dentist sees a need for it.
  • White or tooth-colored dental fillings (pasta) may cover exposed root surfaces which are severely eroded or abraded.
  • Chemical desensitization using dentinal tubule sealers provided by your dentist is the most common method of treatment.


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