when eating and drinking becomes a pain

Do you feel a shooting pain in your teeth when eating or drinking something hot? Does the thought of biting into ice cream or a cold hard apple make you wince? Sensitive teeth can be a burden for many people and can be caused by several things. It is always important to seek advice from a dental professional so the source of the problem can be identified and treated.

One cause of sensitivity is dental erosion, which is the loss of tooth enamel. Enamel is the hard outer coating of a tooth, which protects the sensitive dentine underneath. If the enamel is worn away or eroded, this dentine is exposed which can lead to pain and sensitivity, which can be worsened with extreme temperatures.

Erosion can be caused by your diet (frequent consumption of high sugar or high acid food or drink), tooth brushing habits (brushing too hard), tooth grinding, certain medical conditions and eating disorders. For top tips on protecting your enamel and for effective treatment of tooth sensitivity come to the practice for a check-up, where we can create an individual care plan for you.

What is tooth sensitivity?

The first layer of protection of the teeth is enamel. Enamel is a dense crystalline structure, the hardest substance produced by animals. It is an inert substance that has no nerve supply and thus it protects the teeth from temperature and pressure changes. When it is compromised, worn thin, or exposed due to gum recession, it leaves the dentin exposed and vulnerable. Unlike enamel, dentin is living and has delicate nerve fibers within it.

What triggers tooth sensitivity?

Once dentin is exposed, it can become sensitive. It typically occurs when the dentin comes in contact with heat, cold, or the “double whammy” combination of both cold and sweets. Even the bristles of a soft toothbrush can irritate exposed dentin causing sensitivity and pain.

What can be done to minimize tooth sensitivity?

One of the simplest ways to minimize or prevent sensitivity is by teaching proper brushing techniques so that teeth are cleaned without causing either sensitivity or damage. Brushing too hard is a frequent culprit. Being overzealous can literally cause gum recession, leave dentin, and wear it away leaving it grooved. Another step to minimize sensitivity is to use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Fluoride increases the strength of tooth surfaces and thus makes teeth more resistant to attack by acids and sweets. If severe, we may need to apply a barrier to cover the sensitive areas. These barriers may range from concentrated fluoride varnishes to replacing lost tooth structure with filling materials.