Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that affects people of all ages. It is characterised by a sharp, shooting pain that occurs when the teeth are exposed to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods or drinks.
Why are my teeth sensitive to heat and cold?
Tooth sensitivity can occur as minor dental discomfort or as a painful sign of a more serious issue. It usually feels like a sharp or shooting pain through your teeth into your gums that can radiate across your head. That’s why, when eating cold foods, some people say they’re experiencing a “brain freeze.”
There are many causes of tooth sensitivity such as:
Enamel loss: The outer layer of the tooth, called the enamel, protects the inner layers from damage. When the enamel wears away, the dentin, which is the layer beneath the enamel, becomes exposed. Dentin contains tiny tubules that run through the tooth to the nerve. When these tubules are exposed, they can transmit heat and cold sensations to the nerve, causing pain.
Gum recession: When the gums recede, the root of the tooth becomes exposed. The root is not covered by enamel, so it is more sensitive to heat and cold.
Cavities: Cavities can also cause tooth sensitivity. When a cavity reaches the dentin, it exposes the tubules to the nerve, causing pain.
Cracked or chipped teeth: Cracked or chipped teeth can expose the dentin, causing pain.
Gum disease: Gum disease can cause the gums to become inflamed and recede, exposing the root of the tooth. This can lead to tooth sensitivity.
Dry mouth: Dry mouth can cause the teeth to become more sensitive to heat and cold.
Certain medications: Some medications, such as antihistamines and decongestants, can dry out the mouth and make teeth more sensitive.
If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is important to see a dentist to determine the cause. Once the cause is identified, the dentist can recommend appropriate treatment.
Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity
There are several treatments available for tooth sensitivity. The most appropriate treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the sensitivity.
Desensitising toothpaste: Desensitizing toothpaste contains ingredients that help to block the transmission of pain signals from the teeth to the brain. Desensitizing toothpaste is available over the counter and by prescription.
Fluoride treatments: Fluoride is a mineral that helps to strengthen the enamel and make teeth less sensitive. Fluoride treatments can be applied to the teeth by a dentist or purchased as a mouthwash or toothpaste.
Sealants: Sealants are a type of coating that can be applied to the teeth to protect them from damage. Sealants can be helpful in preventing tooth sensitivity in people who are prone to cavities.
Gum grafts: Gum grafts can be used to rebuild gum tissue that has receded. This can help to protect the roots of the teeth from exposure and reduce tooth sensitivity.
Root canal therapy: Root canal therapy is a procedure that removes the infected or damaged pulp from the tooth. This can help to relieve tooth pain and prevent further damage to the tooth.
Preventing Tooth Sensitivity
There are several things you can do to help prevent tooth sensitivity such as:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
- Flossing your teeth once a day.
- Having regular dental checkups and cleanings.
- Avoiding sugary drinks and foods.
- Limiting intake of acidic foods and drinks.
- Quitting smoking.
- Managing stress.
By following these tips, you can help keep your teeth healthy and reduce your risk of developing tooth sensitivity.
If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, it is important to see a dentist to determine the cause and get appropriate treatment. With proper care, you can relieve your pain and prevent further damage to your teeth.
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