Tooth sensitivity is an extremely common dental problem. Read on to learn more about the symptoms and causes of this condition, as well as the treatments a dentist might use to address it.

What are the symptoms of tooth sensitivity?

The main symptom of tooth sensitivity is a brief but very intense pain which occurs when a person consumes food or drink that is very hot, cold, sweet, or acidic. In some cases, sufferers may also experience pain when pressure is applied to the affected teeth.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity occurs as a result of a thinning of the tooth enamel. This thinning leads to the sensitive dentin underneath becoming exposed. Many things can cause the enamel of a person's teeth to wear away. Excessively forceful brushing is one of the main culprits; placing too much pressure on the teeth can eventually erode the enamel, particularly if the person is using an abrasive, hard-bristled toothbrush.

Frequent consumption of highly acidic food and drink, such as carbonated water, lemons, tomatoes, and kiwis can also lead to this condition. Tooth grinding, advanced gum disease, and bleach-based tooth whitening products have also been found to cause tooth sensitivity in some people.

How can this condition be treated?

If a person suffers from dental sensitivity, their dentist may provide them with a list of preventative measures they can take to reduce the frequency and intensity of the pain they are experiencing. These measures may include dietary changes (for example, avoiding specific foods that trigger tooth sensitivity), altering their tooth-brushing technique (i.e. brushing more gently) and, if appropriate, switching to a soft-bristled brush.

In cases where the problem is believed to have been caused by gum disease, the dentist might carry out a professional cleaning and advise the patient to improve their oral hygiene routine to prevent further erosion of the tooth enamel.

If the patient grinds their teeth and the dentist suspects that this has contributed to their sensitivity issues, they may also fit them with a custom mouth guard, which they can wear whilst sleeping to prevent them from grinding their teeth and therefore eroding their tooth enamel even further.

Additionally, the dentist may advise the patient to swap their normal toothpaste for one which is designed specifically to desensitise teeth. Most dental products of this kind contain a specific ingredient (usually a potassium salt) which prevents pain signals from reaching the tooth's nerve. Desensitising toothpaste does not cure this condition after a period of time, and so it needs to be used on a regular basis in order to keep sensitivity at bay.

For more information and help with treating tooth sensitivity, contact a dentist in your area.