HomeDental ProblemsWhat is Teeth sensitivity? Why does it Occur?

What is Teeth sensitivity? Why does it Occur?

What is Teeth sensitivity?

Whenever you eat or drink hot or cold, or sweet and acid food, or brush and floss your teeth, you feel a sharp pain for a shorter time, it is called Teeth sensitivity or Teeth hypersensitivity. The sensitivity-pain is increased by thermal changes, sweet and sour.

  • Most cases are seen in the 20 to 40 age group.
  • Females are more affected than males.
  • Reduced incidence of tooth sensitivity has been noticed in older people because of changes in tooth structure as age advances.

Why does Teeth sensitivity occur?

A tooth is divided into two parts; Crown and Root. Each tooth is available in the mouth, protected by an outer protective layer called Enamel and Cementum. The Crown portion of a tooth is covered by enamel and the root portion of the tooth is covered by cementum.

Human tooth structure

Below the outer protective layer, hard tissue called dentin is available, and it is less dense in comparison to Enamel and Cementum hard tissues. Dentin contains microscopic tubule structures called dentinal tubules.

Dentin with dentinal tubules
Image credit : Murilo Baena Lopes (at ResearchGate)

So whenever the outermost protective layer wears or breaks, the stimulus of hot or cold, or acidic food reaches the dentinal tubules; and it contains protoplasmic projections of odontoblasts within the pulp chamber. These cells include nerve endings, and whenever it gets disturbed through outer stimuli, depolarization of nerves occurs and it causes the sensation of pain.

Causes of Teeth sensitivity :

The main cause of tooth sensitivity is exposed dentinal tubules. Dentin may be exposed to the outer environment because of erosion or loss of outer enamel covering, gums/gingival recession, and also due to internal and external resorption of the tooth.

  • Common reasons for Enamel wear/loss: It may occur due to many reasons like erosion of enamel due to environmental or dietary elements like acidic food (Soda, soft drinks, high sugar or carbohydrates rich foods), attrition because of bruxism (Clenching of teeth or grinding teeth), abrasion led by improper brushing technique, and dietary elements, worn fillings tooth trauma like a cracked or fractured tooth.
  • Common reasons for Gingival recession: Abrasion due to improper brushing technique, excessive flossing, oral habits (picking, eating hard foods), dental procedures like Crown preparation, and disease like NUG (Necrotizing Ulcerative Gingivitis), periodontitis, herpetic gingivostomatitis.

You may also notice sensitivity after some dental procedures like tooth restoration, Crown preparation, teeth bleaching, etc. for a shorter period.

You should take the advice of your dentist before making any conclusion in your mind to get the actual cause behind your teeth sensitivity.

How you can avoid Teeth sensitivity (Preventive measures) :

  • Focus on your diet and reduce your intake of highly sugary food, and acidic drinks. It doesn’t mean you eliminate it, but have it less frequently.
  • Regular brushing of your teeth is crucial to maintaining good oral hygiene and preventing oral disease. Make sure you know the proper brushing technique. Don’t be hard on your tooth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and change it at regular intervals.
  • Use Toothpaste instead of Tooth powder because toothpaste in gel form is good for your teeth instead of tooth powder.
  • If you have an issue like clenching teeth or grinding teeth at night (also known as Bruxism) then you should use night guards to prevent erosion of the enamel surface. Meet your dentist and take advice if you have such a habit.
  • Use only alcohol-free mouthwash; mouthwashes contain cause irritation and sensitivity pain.

Treatment of Teeth sensitivity :

The treatment of Teeth sensitivity works on mainly two principles;

  • Close the exposed dentinal tubules in contact with the outer environment.
  • Desensitize the nerve endings to reduce the effect of the stimulus.

Desensitizing Dentifrices / Toothpaste :

The use of Desensitizing dentifrice for several days relieves the tooth sensitivity. There are many products available in the market for Teeth sensitivity, take the advice of your dentist before using any product.

Varnish :

Varnish covers the exposed dentinal tubules. It relieves pain and reduces sensitivity. Ask your dentist for the treatment.

Dental Resins and sealers :

It works like varnish and covers the dentinal tubules, and relieves sensitivity by reducing or blocking the outer stimulus to dentinal tubules. Visit your dentist for the treatment.

Fluorides :

Fluoride application on affected sensitive areas may relieve your sensitivity by blocking the exposed dentinal tubules. There are many fluoride products like fluoride gel, etc. available on market. Consult your dentist for fluoride treatment.

Gum graft :

For gums recession, a gum graft is helpful to cover the root surface of the tooth surface and maintain oral hygiene.

Mouth guards :

If your sensitivity occurs because of Bruxism or grinding of the teeth, then a mouth guard may help by preventing wear of enamel and eventually help in sensitivity. Consult your dentist to know the actual cause behind your teeth sensitivity.

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