How do deal with sensitive teeth

Posted By: manager

Published on Dec 01, 2018


If you are one of the many people who experience increased tooth sensitivity you are well aware of how unpleasant it can be. What you may not be aware of are the underlying causes of the sensitivity, and the steps you can take to help relieve the discomfort caused by your sensitive teeth. 

In this blog we will explain what is likely causing the heightened sensitivity of your teeth, and what you can do to help relieve the unpleasant symptoms.  

Why are sensitive teeth so painful?

Teeth are made up of several layers of different material, each with a specific purpose. 

The outer layer is made of the hardest substance in the body, enamel, which is used for biting and chewing. Below this protective outer shell is dentine, which is a softer sponge-like layer that supports the enamel. Within the dentine are thousands of tiny tubes (dentine tubules) containing fluid, which transmit signals from stimuli the outside tooth through to the nerve inside a tooth, and onto the brain. 

Sensitivity occurs when a stimulus, such as cold water contacts the dentine and causes a response in the nerve within the tooth. Sensitivity can also occur if the enamel layer has been compromised through either decay or trauma. Because the nerve endings are wired to detect pressure through the hard enamel layer they cannot cope with direct stimulation and hence create the painful feeling associated with sensitive teeth.

What causes teeth to become sensitive?

Because sensitivity is caused by compromised enamel, anything that damages this protective outer layer will increase the chance of having sensitive teeth. 

Risk factors include: over brushing or brushing too roughly; teeth grinding or clenching; and gum disease which causes the gum to recede further exposing the dentine layer. Acidic foods and drinks can also cause sensitivity.

What can you do to reduce teeth sensitivity?

There are several things you can try to help with sensitive teeth. Each of these methods will have varying levels of effectiveness based on your individual situation, and as always if you are having a dental problem you should consult a dentist for the most accurate advice and effective treatment options. 

The most commonly used treatment for sensitive teeth is brushing with a special “toothpaste for sensitive teeth”. These toothpastes typically contain an active ingredient called potassium nitrate. Potassium nitrate blocks the openings to the tubes containing the nerves, and prevents stimuli such as cold water reaching the nerve endings. While these special toothpastes do not work for everyone, many people find they offer effective relief. When using a sensitive toothpaste it is important to continue using it even after the sensitivity goes away because the nerve endings only remain covered temporarily, and therefore continued daily use of the toothpaste is required. It is also important to think of toothpaste as a medicine, and not to rinse it out after applying it to your teeth with your toothbrush. You should spit out the excess, but not rinse directly after brushing your teeth. Think of toothpaste like a moisturiser - you don’t apply it and then jump in the shower to wash it off.

If you find that you are still experiencing significant sensitivity, talk to your dentist about painted on barriers such as fluoride varnish or plastic resin. While these are temporary and will need to be reapplied they can offer effective relief when all else fails.

It is important to understand that some sensitivity to extreme cold is normal, after all, no nerve respond favourably to extreme stimuli. But if sensitivity is affecting your ability to undertaking a normal diet and lifestyle, you should consult your dentist. 

Stopping the sensitivity from getting worse

Removing the factors that have lead to wear on your tooth enamel is an effective way to prevent tooth sensitivity from getting worse. Switching to a softer toothbrush and taking care not to brush too vigorously will help protect your enamel. 

The same goes for grinding your teeth. If teeth grinding is a problem for you speak to one of our dentists about sleeping mouth guards and other devices which can reduce the damage to your precious enamel layer.  

Modifying your diet and limiting acidic foods and drinks will also help to minimise further exposure of the dentine tubules, thus helping to reduce tooth sensitivity.

Contact Care Dental

One of Care Dental’s friendly and qualified dentists would be happy to help you with your sensitive teeth. Click here to contact us now.