Why are my teeth sensitive?

Sensitivity is that short, sharp, and sometimes quite painful feeling that you get when doing things like drinking cold water, eating ice-cream or breathing in cold winter air!  Sometimes, the discomfort can be so great that you may purposely avoid certain food types or drinks. There are many causes for sensitivity, but if ever in doubt, be sure to contact your dentist!

The most common cause for sensitivity is called dentinal hypersensitivity. This occurs when the inner layer of tooth, called dentine, is exposed. Dentine is porous and allows the cold to penetrate to the nerve on the inside of the tooth. Ideally, dentine shouldn’t be exposed. Exposed dentine usually means that the strong insulating enamel layer over the top has been lost.
What are the most common reasons we lose enamel?
· Gum disease (periodontal disease)

· Excessive force on brushing (abrasion)

· Acid wear from eating acidic foods, reflux (heartburn), morning sickness or bulimia

· Tooth grinding or clenching (bruxism)

· Dental decay

What can I do to fix it?
Firstly, it is important to know what the cause for the loss of enamel is, so that this can be eliminated. Talking to your dentist will help you to figure out the root of the problem.

Your dentist may recommend a range of different treatment options to combat sensitive teeth. If there is no underlying disease that needs to be treated, the use of sensitive toothpaste may be recommended.

There are several popular sensitive toothpaste brands. Their mechanism to help with sensitive teeth differs slightly but the general gist is to block the pores in your dentine to stop the cold getting in or to decrease the activity of  your teeth nerves to stop them feeling the sensation.
A helpful tip is to spit only (no rinse) after brushing, or smearing on some extra toothpaste after brushing at night and going to bed with this on your teeth.
It is important to know that discomfort that is associated with sensitivity is usually a short sharp sensation, rather than a dull, throbbing ache. If you experience a pain that persists, keeps you up at night and is more of a throbbing type pain, please see your dentist for a check-up.

Keep warm everyone!


Dr. J

BDSc. (Melb.) (Hons.)