Sensitive teeth feel sore when exposed to changes in temperature, as experienced when eating hot or cold foods and when breathing in air. Discomfort is felt through the teeth because the condition of the tooth is weak, causing nerves within the dental pulp to respond to these changes.
The tooth may twinge or suddenly have a passing ache. Tooth sensitivity can develop into full blown toothache and oral pain if the underlying causes of sensitive teeth are not treated by a dental professional.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity can result from a range of factors, including:
Worn tooth enamel from improper teeth brushing technique
Plaque and bacteria build-up damaging tooth structure
Highly acidic and sugary foods eroding tooth enamel
Unsafe teeth whitening or bleaching
Oral infection in dental structures or gum tissue
Oral or gum disease, such as gingivitis, periodontitis, caries and cancer
Teeth grinding habits or bruxism
Broken, chipped and cracked teeth
Diagnosis of Sensitive Teeth
Individuals suffering with tooth sensitivity can visit their dentist to find out why their teeth feel sore. When left untreated the cause of the tooth sensitivity can escalate and require emergency dental care.
However, individuals who attend dental check-ups can have their oral health monitored for signs of abnormal dental conditions. Diagnostic tests can include a physical examination of oral structures, X-rays and CT scans. If mouth cancer is suspected a biopsy may be necessary and will be further evaluated in a dental laboratory.
Where infection is present the dentist may conduct further diagnostic imaging tests to determine how far the infection has spread through the root canals and whether root canal treatment is necessary.
Treatments for Sensitive Teeth
The treatment a dentist recommends for sensitive teeth will depend on the diagnosis, underlying cause and the severity of the condition. The aim is to restore teeth to good health as soon as possible and preserve existing tooth structure.
Tooth sensitivity is a symptom and treatments may initially include the use of desensitising gel, fluoride desensitising mouth rinse and painkillers to stop tooth soreness. However, such treatment may be temporary while more permanent solutions are evaluated.
Treatments for the underlying causes of tooth sensitivity:
Removal of plaque and tartar through professional teeth cleaning
Dental filler to seal tooth cavities and fractures so that dentin and dental pulp is no longer exposed
Wearing a mouth guard to prevent further damage from teeth grinding
Crowns, caps, onlays and inlays to reinforce teeth
Orthodontic care where necessary
Replacing missing teeth with artificial prosthesis, such as dental implants, bridges and dentures
Oral hygiene and health guidance
Advice on diet and healthy living
Preventing Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity can be prevented through eating a balanced diet, following a healthy lifestyle, maintaining oral hygiene, having only professional teeth whitening, attending dental check-ups, obtaining emergency care when oral trauma occurs and having any treatment needed to protect teeth and restore function.
Dentists provide advice on how to prevent tooth sensitivity. Seeking early screening and treatment is vital to prevent further oral trauma that may escalate tooth sensitivity, dental damage, toothache and tooth loss.