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Why are my teeth sensitive?

tooth sensitivityTooth sensitivity causes, home solutions and dental treatments

Teeth become sensitive when the nerve of your tooth becomes too close to the outside world. Surrounding the delicate nerves and blood vessels in your tooth is a layer of softer dentine covered with a hard outer layer called the enamel. If anything happens to the enamel dentine which means your nerve becomes more exposed then sensitivity is the result. You will normally find tooth become sensitive when you drink hot drinks, have acidic food and drinks or have something particularly cold like ice cream. Typical reasons this might happen are:

  • Cavities – Cavities occur when your teeth are affected by tooth decay as they become attacked by their acid excreting bacteria, the enamel gets eaten away leaving the softer dentine. If the cavity is left untreated the dentine will also begin to rot. As this process continues the delicate nerve has more of the hot and cold sensations transmitted to it.
  • Cracked teeth – Depending on how big the crack goes this can allow hot or cold liquids to penetrate deeper into the tooth and affect the underlying nerve.
  • Gum recession – The hard outer protective enamel portion of your tooth only extends down to your gum line. Below the gum line is the softer dentine and root of the tooth. Age, poor oral hygiene and over brushing can result in gums receding, as this happens they expose more of the root which is soft and transmits more hot and cold sensations to the underlying nerve.
  • Erosion – Exposed dentine can be quite sensitive. Consuming excessive amounts of acidic food including sugary drinks can erode the outer portion of the tooth leaving the sensitive nerve more likely to feel the hot and cold sensations of everyday eating and drinking. More information about tooth erosion.

Dentine hypersensitivity can also be a cause of general tooth sensitivity. This is not an acute issue as above but is more of a chronic problem whereby the tooth feels far more than it should during normal use.

What are the causes of sudden tooth sensitivity

Sudden tooth sensitivity can happen when the inner part of the tooth suddenly becomes exposed to the oral environment. Typically this will be through some form of trauma, very often a crack. It could also be that decay or recession has suddenly got to the point where your nerve notices the hot and cold. If you have no evidence of a crack in the tooth or indeed no trauma then we recommend you visit an emergency dentist if you have sudden tooth sensitivity.

What can you do about sensitive teeth?

If the sensitivity is caused by cavities, cracked teeth, gum recession or erosion then you will need to visit a dentist. A dentist can then apply some dental bonding over the area which is causing the sensitivity. Sometimes the dentist will use fluoride gels to facilitate this process. The cavities can also be treated.

If the sensitivity is general sensitivity without a specific cause as highlighted above then there are a range of sensitive toothpastes available. These toothpastes work by blocking some of the microbe tubes in the surface of the teeth which transmit the feeling down to the nerve.

Is it normal to have pain after a tooth filling

If the tooth has had a filling then it is quite normal for it to have some sensitivity afterwards. Teeth are alive and will notice that they have been worked on, this will naturally tends to make them more sensitive for a while. This sensitivity caused by the treatment itself should subside after a day. If sensitivity after a tooth filling continues for longer than this then you should visit your dentist just in case there is some problem with the filling or other problem with the tooth.

Ways to prevent tooth sensitivity

Preventing tooth sensitivity can be a challenge as it depends on the reason for your tooth becoming sensitive. You could use a sensitive fluoride toothpaste when brushing your teeth, this type of desensitising toothpaste can really help. If you grind your teeth you may like to consider wearing a bite appliance at night to prevent this.

Making sure you brush and floss your teeth to prevent gum disease is also an excellent way to prevent to sensitivity. Ensure you include every tooth surface when you brush, remembering that the largest tooth surfaces which often get missed where the teeth touch each other, you will probably need dental floss or an interdental brush in order to reach these areas.

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I am dropping a note to say thanks for all the work you have done for me, I am aware that I am not the easiest of patients. Your patience and explanations whilst work is underway was very much appreciated. The bridge work is really outstanding, here’s hoping I need nothing more than routine checks for some time.
- Mr R G
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