"Doc, My Teeth are all Sensitive."
You just need to look at the vast array of sensitive toothpastes available today in the supermarket aisle to realize that teeth sensitivity is a massive problem in the general population. But will this magic pill in these heavily marketed sensitive toothpastes be the tonic for all causes of tooth sensitivity?
To understand what causes tooth sensitivity, we need to know a little about tooth anatomy.
The brittle, outer protective layer of teeth called enamel is the hardest material in the body. Beneath the enamel is the flexible material called dentine, which is much like a stack of tubes piled on top of each other. Within the middle of the tubes of dentine is a fluid which communicates with the dental pulp. It is within the dental pulp where many blood vessels and millions of nerve fibre are housed. Heat, cold, touch, air and certain foods can cause movement of this fluid within the tubules of dentine resulting in stimulation of the nerve fibres and the resultant short, sharp pain.
But what does it mean when our teeth are sensitive?
If you are suffering from tooth sensitivity, it is most likely due to one or a combination of the following.
- Dental Decay
- Gum Disease and Gum Recession – when your gums have receded ‘i.e you are getting a little long in the tooth’ this can be due to gum disease, or recession caused by trauma to the gum due to over-zealous tooth brushing. It is the exposure of the dentine which is normally covered by enamel or the gum which causes the painful sensation.
- Microscopic fractures of teeth – Habits such as teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism) will eventually wear away the enamel layer. Each time you have decay and require a restoration, this ultimately weakens the tooth structure. The excessive load of bruxism coupled with a weakening of the tooth structure through dental decay can result in microscopic fractures within the tooth. It is this movement of the tooth structure under load which stimulates the nerve fibres within the pulp.
- Excessive consumption of acidic foods and drinks. Soft drinks, juices, wine, citrus fruits and some mouthwashes are all very acidic and the erosion of the enamel can also result in exposure of the dentine.
- Presence of plaque can cause tooth sensitivity
- Recent dental work – deep restorations close to the pulp, teeth whitening, crown placement and some gum treatments can cause teeth sensitivity.
Contrary to what the manufacturers will lead you to believe, their magic toothpastes will only be effective when there is exposed dentine – mostly due to gum disease or receding gums. These toothpastes work by blocking the dentin tubules and preventing the stimulation of the nerve fibres.
The other major causes of tooth sensitivity will not respond as positively to these toothpastes and further dental intervention will often be prescribed.
It is best to treat the presence of tooth sensitivity as a warning sign. Please call 5221 6610 and make an appointment with either Dr Gray or Dr Robinson to ensure that your sensitivity is not a sign of a more serious condition.