Why Are Teeth Sometimes Sensitive?

Tooth sensitivity can be uncomfortable, but could also indicate other problems.

Having sensitive teeth can make drinking and eating quite uncomfortable. It is no fun, on a hot day, to have to think about the consequences before drinking a nice ice cold drink.

There can be a number of reasons for this problem, some of which could indicate a potential issue with the health of your teeth.

If you come to the Confidental Clinic in Clapham because of tooth sensitivity, we will examine the tooth, or teeth, to see if there is an obvious problem that is causing this.

Enamel damage

Damaged or worn enamel is one of the most common causes of having sensitive teeth. As the enamel is compromised, it exposes the softer inner dentin layer. This layer is porous and offers a route to the nerves stored in the root canals of the teeth.

Enamel damage, or erosion, can be caused by a number of things, including:

Excessive or over enthusiastic brushing – Brushing too often, or too hard, can gradually cause the enamel of the teeth to thin. There is no need, under normal circumstances, to brush your teeth more than twice a day. A gentle circular brushing motion for 2 minutes each time is sufficient. There is no need to ‘scrub’ your teeth.

Acidic diet – Even a healthy diet that contains a lot of fruit can cause the acids to erode the teeth. Equally bad are high sugar drinks, especially carbonated ones. Eating a small piece of cheese at the end of a meal is actually a good way to help re-balance the acids in your mouth.

Solutions to sensitive teeth

Where tooth sensitivity has been caused by enamel erosion or damage, one way of both reducing sensitivity, and protecting the tooth from further damage, is to fit dental veneers. These porcelain veneers are attached to the front of a prepared tooth, and, in effect, replace the natural enamel.

Where the damage has been caused by the grinding of teeth, also known as bruxism, the damaged tooth can be restored using a dental crown. However, this is a more effective solution once the patient has overcome this habit. This is not always easy, as bruxism often occurs whilst we sleep, so willpower alone is unlikely to help and medical guidance may also be required. It is thought that bruxism tends to occur when we are under stress, so it is also advisable to review this, again seeking professional help as needed. We can also help prevent tooth damage by providing appliances which are worn in the mouth at night to protect the teeth – please ask your dentist about this.

Other causes

Not all reasons for tooth sensitivity necessarily indicate that there is a problem with your teeth. If you have had a sinus infection, for example, you may experience more sensitivity in your upper, rear teeth. This will return to normal as the infection goes. Cold weather too can cause our teeth to feel more sensitive. Wrapping a scarf around the mouth when out walking will help to mitigate this.

Even though some causes of sensitive teeth may not relate to a dental problem, it is always worth having a dental checkup, just in case. If you would like to see your local Clapham dentist at the Confidental Clinic, please call us on 020 7801 9060.