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16 April 2018

Caring for sensitive teeth

For many of us, there’s nothing better than a cold gelato on a hot summer’s day or a warm hearty soup in winter. But if you have sensitive teeth, the idea of ice cream and hot soup would not necessarily bring back fond memories.

The good news is that, although there are a number of reasons you may have sensitive teeth, most of them can be treated.

Possible reasons for sensitive teeth

Firstly, let’s look at the reasons for sensitivity with your teeth. I have to state the obvious one: it could simply be that the thing you’re eating is too cold or too hot. Food or drink that is too hot or too cold can lead to soreness.

Some people do have more naturally sensitive teeth than others, but there could also be some underlying factor that causes the sensitivity that needs to ruled out.

For example, if you have a hole in your tooth, this could create sensitivity. Another reason for sensitivity is a problem with your gums. It could be that your gums are receding and exposing the root surfaces of your teeth which are naturally more sensitive. Gum disease (also known as gingivitis or periodontitis) could be a factor. By the way, excessive grinding of your teeth, could also cause gums to recede.

As well as gum recession, plaque build-up can also cause teeth to become hypersensitive.

Things you can do to manage sensitivity

You dentist should be able to give you a definitive answer to why your teeth are increasingly sensitive and advice on how to manage the issue. If the problem is a hole in the tooth, a filling will ensure that it doesn’t become a bigger and more expensive issue.

If it’s a case of receding gums, they might just need a good clean, or a better cleaning regime. The root surface of your tooth—the bit that is normally covered by your gums—is not covered by enamel. So when it’s exposed, it becomes more sensitive.

You may not be looking at periodontal disease as the cause of your receding gums. Gums recede as we get older anyway. Also, sometimes it’s the result of being too rough when you brush your teeth, or using the wrong toothbrush. I always recommend using an ultra-soft toothbrush—it still does the job it needs to do, but is gentler on your teeth and gums overall.

No one should be using a medium or hard toothbrush. It isn’t difficult to find an ultra-soft toothbrush in your supermarket. Check the packaging—they are usually easy to identify. We sell them at our practice. Electric toothbrushes are good because they are generally quite soft.

Treating sensitive teeth

There’s a lot that can be done to improve the situation. It involves an initial diagnosis to determine what the problem is, so that it can be treated appropriately.

Once we’ve looked at the root cause of the problem, a possible ongoing solution involves switching to a toothpaste that’s designed especially for sensitive teeth.

Sensitive toothpastes are not a gimmick. They work! They have certain active ingredients in them that help to reduce the sensitivity. They either remineralise the enamel or they prevent the conduction of cold to the tooth that’s providing an insulating barrier. But either way, they can definitely have an impact. I often advice my clients to place a pea sized amount around the teeth around the gum margins last thing at night for two weeks.

Ultimately, the better you care for your teeth, the less likely you are to experience problems—and this includes sensitivity.

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