Tooth Sensitivity in Charlbury, Oxfordshire

Charlbury Dental Practice
The Spendlove Centre, Enstone Road, Charlbury, Oxfordshire OX7 3PQ

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Some people find that their teeth are sensitive in certain conditions. Under these conditions they may experience anything from a sudden mild twinge to severe discomfort that can continue for several hours.

You are more likely to feel the sensitivity when drinking or eating something cold, from cold air catching your teeth and occasionally with hot foods or drinks. Some people can have sensitivity when they have sweet or acidic food and drink. The pain can come and go, with some times being worse than others.

Who suffers from sensitive teeth?

Many people suffer from sensitive teeth and it can start at any time. It is more common in people aged between 20 and 40, although it can affect people at any age. Children sometimes complain of sensitivity when their new front teeth come through.

What causes sensitive teeth?

The part of the tooth we can see is covered by a layer of enamel that protects the softer dentine underneath. If the dentine is exposed, a tooth can become sensitive. This usually happens where the tooth and the gum meet and the enamel layer is much thinner. It can also happen if there is a lot of enamel wear from tooth grinding (bruxing).

Tooth sensitivity can also be an early warning sign of more serious dental problems, for example a cracked tooth or filling. A crack can run from the biting surface of a tooth down towards the nerve and extreme temperatures, especially cold, may cause discomfort.

Here are some other causes of sensitivity:

  • Toothbrush abrasion – brushing too hard and brushing from side to side can cause dentine to be worn away, particularly where the teeth meet the gums. The freshly exposed dentine may then become sensitive.
  • Dental erosion – loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks. If enamel is worn away the dentine underneath is exposed which may lead to sensitivity.
  • Gum recession – gums may naturally recede (shrink back) so that the roots become exposed and they can be more sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.
  • Gum disease – can cause the gum to recede and form a pocket between the tooth and the gum. It can progress to destroy the bony support of the tooth. This exposes the more sensitive root surface which is difficult to keep clean and this in turn makes the problem worse.
  • Tooth grinding (bruxing) – a habit which involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive.
  • Tooth whitening – some patients have sensitivity for a short time during or after having their teeth whitened. Your dentist will discuss this with you if you are thinking of having this treatment.

Is there anything I should avoid if I have sensitive teeth?

You may find that hot, cold, sweet or acidic drinks or foods like ice cream can cause discomfort and so you may want to avoid these. If you have sensitivity when brushing your teeth with cold water from the tap, use warm water instead. It is important you do not avoid brushing your teeth regularly as this could make the problem worse.

Is there anything I can do to treat sensitive teeth at home?

There are many brands of toothpaste on the market made to help ease the pain of sensitive teeth. Such toothpastes should be used twice a day to brush your teeth; this toothpaste or tooth mousses can also be rubbed onto the sensitive areas directly. These can take anything from a few days to several weeks to take effect. Your dentist will be able to advise you which type of toothpaste would be best for you. There are also mouthwashes which can help sensitivity, and some stronger toothpastes, tooth mousses and mouthwashes which are only available on prescription/recommendation from your dentist.

Do I need to go and see my dentist?

Yes, especially if you have tried treating your sensitive teeth with appropriate toothpastes for a few weeks and have felt no improvement.

What treatments can the dentist offer?

During an examination the dentist will talk to you about your symptoms. They will look at your teeth to find out what is causing the sensitivity and to find the best way of treating it.

Your dentist may treat the affected teeth with special de-sensitising products to help relieve the symptoms. To build up some protection, fluoride gels, rinses or varnishes can be painted onto the teeth. Sensitivity can take some time to subside and occasionally you may need more than one application.

If this still does not reduce sensitivity sufficiently, and the cause of the problem is abrasion or erosion at the neck of the tooth, your dentist may seal or fill around the area where the tooth and gum meet to cover exposed dentine.

How can I prevent sensitive teeth?

To prevent sensitive teeth follow these principles:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes with fluoride toothpaste; use small circular movements with a soft to medium brush or use an electric toothbrush; avoid scrubbing your teeth from side to side.
  • If you do drink fruit juice, other acidic or fizzy drinks, wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth.
  • Change your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 2 to 3 months or sooner if it becomes worn.
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods and fizzy or acidic drinks.
  • If you grind your teeth, talk to your dentist about the possibility of having a mouthguard made to wear at night.
  • If you are thinking about having your teeth whitened, discuss sensitivity with your dentist before starting treatment.
  • Visit your dentist for a check-up every 6-12 months or as your dentist advises.

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