Sensitive teeth

If you experience a short, sharp, stabbing pain in response to sweet, cold or hot drinks you may have sensitive teeth. The teeth are sensitive because areas of the tooth which were once protected by enamel or gum tissue have been lost. When you have receded gums, part of the tooth called dentine will be exposed and this will be causing the tooth sensitivity. If this is the cause of the tooth pain then a dentist may cover the sensitive part of the tooth with a composite (tooth-coloured) filling or a special sealant to protect the exposed tooth.

Advice: If you have sensitive teeth then apply a thin layer of sensitivity specific toothpaste on the dried tooth so the fluoride helps reduce the sensitivity until you see the dentist.

Sensitive Teeth FAQs

How common is sensitive teeth?

Tooth sensitivity is a very common issue amongst the population. It is the reason why there are so many toothpastes and dental products marketed just to try and deal with it. Some studies have shown that over 60% of the population can suffer from tooth sensitivity at any point in their lives and it can come and go.

What are the causes of tooth sensitivity?

This is also known as dentine hypersensitivity and it is usually due to the tough outer layer of enamel on the surfaces of the teeth being worn away or lost exposing areas of the underlying dentine which in turn trigger a response from the nerve every time something hot, cold or sweet is ingested. Sensitivity due to hot, cold or sweet things can also be a sign of tooth decay (caries) and so you should see a dentist to examine this further.

Over-brushing can also cause areas of enamel to wear away particularly at the gum margins, where the enamel is already thinner (can cause root sensitivity). This “abrasion” can lead to wear facets on the teeth, that again expose dentine and cause sensitivity. It is therefore very important to seek correct brushing advice from your dentist to ensure that this can be prevented.

What is the treatment for sensitive teeth?

If you suffer from sensitive teeth it is important to see your dentist to help evaluate the severity of it and the areas most affected. From here, the dentist may prescribe specific desensitizing toothpastes or even “high fluoride-containing” toothpastes to help reduce the symptoms. The fluoride will also help strengthen the outer layer of the tooth to help protect it. Desensitizing mouthwashes may also be prescribed to help deal with the sensitivity.

Fluoride varnishes or gels may also be applied topically and directly onto the teeth by your dentist to help protect them further. Fillings and resin cements can also be placed where teeth are more severely worn, particularly around the gum margins.

Ideally following proper oral hygiene instruction and correct brushing technique will help maintain a healthy mouth and help reduce the chances of tooth sensitivity occurring.

What is the best toothpaste for sensitive teeth?

There are many different companies marketing their particular brand of “sensitive” toothpastes. It is important to choose the right one for you that seems to work. Ask your dentist to see what they recommend.

What is the main reason for teeth sensitivity after teeth whitening treatment?

Dentine is in contact with the nerve of the tooth via small channels called dentinal tubules. These contain fluid in them, and if these tubules are exposed, the fluid in them starts moving causing tooth sensitivity. Teeth whitening treatment predominantly uses a bleaching agent, primarily a peroxide to help lighten the shade of the teeth. The bleaching agent removes any plugs that might be protecting the dentinal tubules and so tooth sensitivity is a lot more likely during this treatment.

Desensitizing gels and varnishes can be used to help reduce the sensitivity. Fluoride in particular is an important active ingredient of these agents to help try and reduce the size of the dentinal tubules and hence reduce the sensitivity. Some of the newer desensitizing agents also help create the plugs that help seal off the dentinal tubules again reducing tooth sensitivity.