Tooth sensitivity is no laughing matter!
If just the thought of eating ice cream puts your teeth on edge, you already know what tooth sensitivity feels like. But what causes it?
Most commonly, sensitivity results from the loss of the tooth’s normal protective mechanisms. Enamel is the hardest structure in the human body. It protects the softer, sensitive dentine of the crown of the tooth and extends to the gum line. The gums and cementum cover and line the root of the tooth – also made of dentine. When healthy enamel reaches just beneath the level of healthy gum tissue, cold air and cold foods do not produce pain.
How does sensitivity develop?
The gums recede, or shrink back to an extent as part of the ageing process. However, incorrect brushing action with a medium or firm-bristled toothbrush damages gum tissue and can lead to early gum recession. The exposed cementum cannot withstand brushing and the normal plaque activity within the mouth. It soon wears, exposing the dentine of the upper part of the root
In addition, routinely scrubbing the tooth brush back and forth can cause wear facets in the enamel. This is called abrasion, and can even lead to abrasion caries or defects in the enamel requiring fillings.
When the dentine is exposed . . .
Whether dentine is exposed above or below the gum line, its tubular structure means it is sensitive to temperature and acid activity.
There are toothpastes that can help protect the tubules from contact with aggravating substances. If further help is required, your dentist can help with prescription strength desensitising pastes, fluoride treatments or placing small ‘fillings’, called bonding.
It is also a great idea to learn about correct brushing technique, and the safest way to care for your teeth!