Dentin Hypersensitivity

The extremes of sensitive teeth.

Common sense says that if you bury your teeth into an ice cream and leave them there for some time, you might expect to experience some level of discomfort caused by sensitivity. The level of this will depend, to a certain extent, on the health and thickness of the enamel on your teeth, amongst other things.

Most patients of the Clocktower Dental Clinic, of course, will rarely do such extreme things and tooth sensitivity will not be an issue in their day-to-day lives.

Unfortunately for some, this is not always the case as dentin hypersensitivity is far from uncommon, causing discomfort and distress to those who suffer from it.

What is dentin hypersensitivity?

Better known to most patients as ‘tooth sensitivity’, it is a condition which causes discomfort when the teeth are exposed to either hot or cold temperatures, as well as exposure to acidic food and drinks. Breathing in very cold air will also often have the same effect.

The discomfort caused by sensitive teeth can be quite severe and cause the patient to wince with pain when it happens. It can be very unpleasant and may also restrict choice when it comes to certain food and drinks.

What causes it?

There can be a number of causes of sensitive teeth. Perhaps the best known is where the enamel of the tooth has become compromised. The enamel acts as a barrier to the nerves within the tooth and healthy enamel means that you should not feel extremes of temperature. Compromised or thinning enamel, on the other hand, allows the effect to register deeper within the teeth via the porous dentin part of the tooth.

Another cause of hypersensitivity is when the dentin layer of the tooth that is normally protected by the gums, no longer is. This can happen when you have gum disease or through receding gums (approximately 80% of us will suffer from this to a degree by the time we are 65). Unlike the part of the tooth above the gum line, the root part of the tooth is not protected by enamel and the dentin is therefore exposed. There may also be other damage to your teeth, such as a crack in the tooth, that you can’t see. You should always make an appointment to see one of the dentists at the Clocktower Dental Clinic if you experience sensitivity, especially if it comes on suddenly.

How can I prevent it from happening?

Some causes, such as cracked teeth, can be out of our control if caused by an accident. Other than that, the most obvious way to protect your teeth is to take good care of them, both through what you eat and how you clean them. Avoiding acidic foods and drinks will help to protect the enamel of your teeth, as will making sure not to brush them too hard. Using a toothpaste designed to help prevent gum disease is also a good way to reduce the risk of gum recession.

What to do if you have sensitive teeth

Prevention is always the best option, but if you already have sensitive teeth, that is probably of little help. Anyone who has experienced this will want to know how to stop or at least reduce it and there are a number of options available to help.

Sensitive teeth toothpastes

Providing that you have seen one of our Epsom dentists and have not suffered any cracks to the teeth etc, you may find that using a sensitive toothpaste will help to relieve the problem, especially if the discomfort is relatively minor. These help to reduce sensitivity if you use them regularly and also often contain additional fluoride to help protect your teeth. Where discomfort is significant and caused by badly damaged enamel, you may benefit from having dental veneers fitted to replace the affected enamel surface of your teeth. This will help to protect the inner parts of your teeth, and has the added bonus of allowing you to have the whiteness of your teeth improved, if you wish.

Gum recession is more difficult to treat and is both a product of becoming older and irreversible. Despite this, if you detect that this is happening early on, adjustments to your oral health regime may help to slow down its progress. Our Epsom dental hygienist will be happy to help you to achieve this. You should also discuss, with one of our dental team, options for protecting the exposed part of the tooth.

Reducing or eliminating dentin hypersensitivity will make eating and drinking more comfortable and help reduce any distress caused by this problem. So if you have sensitive teeth, please do talk to us about it. You can call the Clocktower Dental Clinic here in Epsom for an appointment, on 01372 720136.