Tooth sensitivity is a common dental condition characterised by pain and discomfort when eating certain types of food, particularly those that are hot, cold, sweet or sour.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Sensitivity occurs when the protective layer of the teeth is worn down, exposing the nerve endings to direct contact with stimuli. The layer that protects the crown of the tooth is called the enamel, while the layer that protects the part buried in your gums is called the cementum. The enamel, cementum, and by extension, the gums, can be eroded by mechanical and chemical factors, leaving the nerves vulnerable.
Dental habits like brushing your teeth too vigorously and using toothbrushes with stiff bristles tends to wear down all three protective layers. Constant teeth grinding can cause the enamel to erode, especially along the surface where the upper and lower dental arcades are in contact. Trauma to the tooth, including fractures and loosening of the root, can eventually lead to tooth sensitivity.
Chronic exposure to acid will thin out the enamel over time. This can happen when you eat citrus fruit and juices, tomato-based products, wine, and coffee. Regurgitation of the acidic contents of the stomach as conditions like gastroesophageal reflux and bulimia also has the same effect.
Poor dental hygiene that allows food particles and bacteria to grow will eventually cause damage and infection of the gums.
Steps to Minimising Tooth Sensitivity
- Start by using a soft-bristle brush.
- Take time to find out how to properly brush your teeth so you avoid gum bleeding and enamel thinning.
- Floss regularly to get rid of the pieces of food in between your teeth, reducing the chances of bacterial infection.
- Cut down on acidic food and drink where possible. However, if that is not an option, make sure to wash it down with water to prevent the acid from settling in, or use a straw to bypass contact with the teeth.