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Sensitive to Teeth Sensitivity?

Sensitive to Teeth Sensitivity?


Dr. Kumudu Wijesinghe Suriya

I can’t remember anyone talking about sensitive teeth when I was a kid.  Now I see many people who are concerned about their teeth sensitivities.  Does this mean that people are becoming more expressive on their teeth sensitivities?  Is it possible that teeth sensitivities are on the rise?  In any event, for sure, teeth sensitivities are not ignored now.

A painful tooth can stem mainly from four distinct situations – decayed tooth, post-operative sensitivity (last for a period of time after a filling), referred tooth pain and dentin hypersensitivity.  A future article will focus on referred tooth pain.  This article focuses on dentin hypersensitivity, enabling you to take preventative steps.

The part above the gum line of a tooth is called a crown.  A layer of hard material called enamel protects the crowns of your teeth.  The part below gum line of a tooth is not fully protected with enamel.  A layer as not as hard as enamel called cementum covers the largest area below gum line.  Underneath both enamel and cementum is dentin.

Dentin is not as hard as enamel and contains tiny microscopic tubes (tubules).  About twenty percent of tubules have nerve fibers penetrating inner dentine by no more than a few microns.  When gums recede, dentin may also be exposed.  The result is dentin hypersensitivity or commonly known as teeth sensitivity.

What are the major causes of teeth sensitivity?

• brushing too hard 

• grinding teeth 

• keeping mouth acidic 

• neglecting oral hygiene 

• gum disease

What can you do? 

• Don’t brush too hard.  Avoid hard toothbrushes.  Brush with a soft-bristled toothbrush. 

• Brush twice a day with a proper technique to prevent plaque build up.  This will also reduce the chances of periodontal disease that can cause receding gums. 

• Rinse your mouth to flush out acid build up in your mouth.  Rinsing is especially important when you consume acidic drinks (orange, lime, pop-drinks, etc.) or food. 

• Use fluoridated dental toothpaste to help strengthen enamel.  This is important in light of the fact that BC tap water is mostly non-fluoridated.  You may also want to use toothpaste recommended for sensitive teeth. 

• Avoid using unsafe teeth-whitening products. 

• It is easy to avoid grinding teeth during the day as you can control your action while you are awake.  If you grind during night, you cannot control your actions.  You could use a mouth guard. 

• If you have a small cavity, do not wait till it becomes a major one to see a dentist.

With increasing life-expectancy, you have more years to chew.  If you take preventative measures, you will have a pleasant experience when drinking and eating.

Dr. Kumudu Wijesinghe Suriya, BDS (Peradeniya), DMD (UBC), is a dentist who practices in New Westminster & Surrey.  She is a Clinical Instructor at the University of British Columbia and was a Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya.

Sri Lanka Times (BC, Canada), November 2012

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