Why Are My Teeth Sensitive?

“One thing I like less than most things is sitting on a dentist’s chair with my mouth open…”

- OGDEN NASH

Toothy Tales

Well, this is a common refrain from many of my patients, about their teeth being sensitive. This painful tingling sensation may be after eating sour foods, consuming cold drinks or hot coffee/tea, or even after an exposure to a cold blast of air. There are several causes for sensitive teeth; a correct diagnosis can help relieve this common troublesome issue. Sensitivity is usually due to loss of enamel which is the outermost protective layer for teeth.

Common Reasons for Tooth Sensitivity

Use of a Hard Toothbrush

Vigorous tooth brushing especially with hard bristles can wear away enamel. This usually is seen at the neck of the teeth close to the gumline, where the enamel is thinner and hence more vulnerable.

High Consumption of Acidic Beverages

Regular use of carbonated beverages and high energy drinks can dissolve enamel, leaving the dentin exposed.

Dental Decay

Cavities in teeth may present as sensitivity. Decay may occur on any surface of the teeth. A thorough examination by the dentist will help identify the same.

Gum Problems

Inflammation of the gums may result in gum recession, leaving the roots of the teeth exposed. This area of the teeth may be lost more easily when subjected to heavy brushing.

Bruxism/Teeth Grinding

Many people grind their teeth at night while sleeping. This results in vertical wear of teeth exposing the nerves which when stimulated by food or drink may result in sensitivity.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

This medical condition is associated with recurrent reflux of acidic contents of the stomach into the mouth. This acid dissolves the enamel making the teeth sensitive.

How Can Sensitivity Be Treated/Avoided?

Change your brushing habits. Use a soft toothbrush, which should be replaced once the bristles are frayed or after every 3 months. Brushing must be done in up and down motion. Avoid consuming acidic beverages and use of alcohol-based mouthwashes.

Any underlying medical issues like recurrent gastric reflux must be attended to and treated. People who regularly grind teeth can have mouth guards made, which can protect teeth surfaces from further wear.

Several medicated tooth pastes are available, which form a layer over the exposed dentin and thereby reduce sensitivity. These toothpastes require a few weeks of usage prior to bringing about a perceptible reduction in symptoms. Worn out tooth surfaces can be restored by placing fillings.

Tooth sensitivity is entirely avoidable. Regular dental checkups and meticulous oral hygiene go a long way towards maintaining a healthy mouth, a pleasing smile and an enjoyable meal time!

Dr. Preeti l. Anand

Dr. Preeti l. Anand
Senior Dental Surgeon & Implantologist
Kauvery Hospital Chennai

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