Sensitive matters

Hot or cold foods and drinks can make teeth more sensitive.

As the weather changes, we tend to consume more cold or hot foods and drinks, such as ice cream, frozen desserts, and icy drinks or steaming puddings, hot chocolates and sweet treats – and you may notice more sensitivity in your teeth.

Sensitivity can occur when enamel – the hard outer layer of our teeth – is lost or worn away, and the softer dentine layer underneath is exposed. It can also happen where the tooth and the gum line meet, as the enamel layer is much thinner here and more easily worn down.

Sensitive teeth can affect anyone, and can be caused by:

  • Toothbrush abrasion – brushing too hard (or with a brush that’s too firm)
  • Dental erosion – caused by frequent consumption of acidic food and drinks
  • Gum recession – gums may naturally shrink back over time and the roots (which don’t have an enamel layer to protect them) will become exposed
  • Gum disease – a build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and even destroy the bony support of the tooth
  • Teeth grinding – clenching and grinding the teeth together can cause enamel to be worn away
  • A cracked tooth or filling
  • Teeth whitening – some patients may notice mild sensitivity for a short time after bleaching

There are lots of anti-sensitivity toothpastes on the market which can alleviate symptoms – especially if you rub the toothpaste directly onto sensitive areas with your finger. Different pastes work in different ways: you may need to try out alternatives.

Your dentist can also help you with tooth sensitivity by recommending a toothpaste, or by using fluoride gels, rinses or varnishes, or by sealing the neck of a tooth to cover any exposed dentine. They can also check to make sure you don’t have gum disease, defective fillings, or decay.

If you’re suffering from ongoing sensitive teeth, speak to your dentist at your next appointment to discuss your options.

Published: July 18th, 2013

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Sensitive teeth can affect anyone