You’re happily enjoying your favorite ice cream when suddenly you are met with a sharp pain in your mouth. If you have found yourself in this unpleasant situation, you could be suffering from dental hypersensitivity.
Dental or dentin hypersensitivity is a common, painful condition in which exposed dentinal surfaces produce sharp pain when exposed to air or hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks.
It can affect any age group however is slightly more common in women and seems to peak between the ages of 20 and 40. Though temporary, the pain can become chronic with acute episodes. It can affect a single tooth or a variety of tooth surfaces, most often the canines and premolars of both arches.
Cause of Dental Hypersensitivity
Under normal conditions, the underlying layer of the tooth immediately surrounding the nerve is covered by tooth enamel and gums. Over time, the enamel layer can grow thinner and the gums recede, exposing the dentin surface. Any conditions wherein the dentin are exposed can lead to hypersensitivity.
Risk factors for developing dental hypersensitivity include:
- Gingival recission due to periodontal disease
- Gingivitis (inflamed and sore gums)
- Dental caries
- Cracked teeth
- Acidic diet
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Extreme toothbrushing
- Using a hard-bristled toothbrush
- Plaque build-up
- Dental procedures (dentin sensitivity can increase after professional cleaning or tooth restoration procedures)
- Teeth grinding
Treatment for Dental Hypersensitivity
Many people with dental hypersensitivity avoid dental treatment. This is not advised, as visiting a dentist can help rule out the underlying causes of your tooth pain.
Your dentist can determine the root cause of your tooth sensitivity and will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment to ease your discomfort and worsening of your condition. Different treatments for managing dentine hypersensitivity may be tried and modified based on the results.
Your dentist may recommend any of the following treatments:
- Desensitizing toothpaste: This toothpaste is available over-the-counter and can sometimes block pain after several applications. Your dentist can recommend the product which is best for you.
- Fluoride: Your dentist might apply fluoride to your teeth to strengthen tooth enamel and reduce pain. or may also prescribe a fluoride that you can apply at home.
- Desensitizing or bonding: Exposed root surfaces may also be treated by applying bonding resin to the gum surfaces.
- Surgical gum graft: A small amount of gum tissue can be removed from another part of your mouth to replace any missing gum tissue, to reduce its sensitivity.
- Root canal: If no other method is proving to be successful in treating tooth sensitivity, your dentist may recommend a root canal, known to be the most successful technique for eliminating tooth sensitivity.
Good dental care and oral hygiene are important for prevention and reoccurrence of dental hypersensitivity. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristle brush and gentle strokes. When drinking acidic liquids, such as citrus juice, coffee or wine, drink water to balance the acidic levels in your mouth.
Your dental self-care routine should include regular flossing followed with teeth brushing to prevent plaque build-up which can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Flossing removes plaque and bacteria that you cannot reach with your toothbrush.