Sensitive Teeth Symptoms and Causes

Sensitive teeth can be an irritating ailment with a variety of causes.

The usual symptoms of teeth sensitivity are sharp, fleeting pain as a result of eating or drinking something particularly hot or cold. Symptoms can also be triggered by sweet or acidic food and drink.

The leading causes of sensitive teeth are:

  • acid erosion of the enamel
  • exposing the dentine layer of the tooth
  • abrasive teeth brushing technique
  • exposing the cementum of the tooth at the root interface
  • a cavity in the tooth caused by dental decay

Another cause is attributed to teeth grinding (bruxism), whereby night time clenching of the jaws,  results in the surface enamel of the teeth being worn away, again exposing the sensitive dentine layer below.

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Sensitive Teeth Treatments

The treatments available for teeth sensitivity depend primarily on the cause of the problem. For instance, if there is a cavity detected, then a simple filling would generally alleviate the problem, assuming that the cavity was not too deep. This would normally be assessed with a dental X-ray.

For sensitivity caused by gum recession, tooth coloured composite resin can be placed as a bandage across the sensitive area, cosmetically insulating the tooth from extremes in temperature. Otherwise, fluoride varnishes could be applied to the sensitive area by the dentist, or high fluoride desensitising toothpaste and mouthwashes can be used at home daily. These act to depolarise exposed nerve endings or block microscopic holes in the enamel.

If symptoms persist, fluoride foam can be placed into custom made mouth trays to be worn at night which helps to strengthen the enamel over a more extended period. Habits such as over-zealous tooth brushing can be resolved by using an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor, and teeth grinding can be addressed with a nighttime mouth guard or adopting relaxation techniques.  The initial sensitivity, however, would still need to be treated as mentioned above.