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Have you ever taken a drink of ice-cold water and then winced because of the pain, or found you are unable to enjoy a hot cup of coffee without your teeth starting to ache? If this sounds familiar, chances are you have sensitive teeth.

What are Sensitive Teeth?

Tooth sensitivity is the common term for dentine hypersensitivity or root sensitivity. According to Colgate, approximately half of today’s population experiences tooth sensitivity. Hypersensitivity is a result of dentine (the layer under your enamel) or cementum (the layer covering the root) becoming exposed due to receding gums or periodontal disease. dentine and cementum contain microscopic tunnels with nerve endings that are sensitive to temperature and acidity: this is what triggers your nerves and can cause pain.

The Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Sensitivity can occur as sharp, sudden and shooting pain when eating, drinking, brushing, and sometimes even breathing in cold air. Some factors that can contribute to tooth sensitivity, include:

  • Brushing Too Hard. Yep, brushing your teeth can actually damage them. If you aggressively brush your teeth, not only are you removing plaque, you are also potentially removing the outer layer of enamel at the neck of your teeth.  Vigorous brushing can also damage gums, causing them to recede.
  • Teeth Grinding. The constant pressure placed on your teeth can wear the enamel away and cause your teeth to crack, causing the dentine to become exposed.
  • Dental Treatment. Sometimes (but not all the time) after dental treatment such as fillings, crowns and teeth whitening, teeth can feel very sensitive.
  • Gum Disease. When gums become inflamed, the tissue pulls away from the tooth, leaving dentine or cementum exposed.

Treatment for Sensitive Teeth

If your teeth feel particularly painful, you should first see your dentist and discuss the problem. You should tell your dentist exactly when the pain started and describe the symptoms.

Treatment might be as simple as applying a fluoride varnish to the tooth or repairing an existing filling. However, if the cause of the sensitivity is gum loss, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for further assessment and treatment.

Prevention and Reduction of Tooth Sensitivity

  • Brush and floss – twice a day! You should make sure you clean every tooth and use the correct brushing techniques.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and brush gently but thoroughly
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste that is specially designed for sensitive teeth.
  • If you grind your teeth in your sleep, your dentist may make you a night-guard to protect your teeth

Can you have orthodontic treatment while having sensitive teeth?

Braces and aligners (Invisalign) do put some pressure on your teeth, however, if you follow the tips listed above, you can avoid unnecessary discomfort.  You will notice a higher level of sensitivity than normal at the start of treatment but this will normally subside over three or four days. During this time, you may alleviate any discomfort with over-the-counter pain medication, soft comfort foods and rest.

If you are concerned about your sensitive teeth before, during or after orthodontic treatment, speak to the friendly Ethos team today. We can work on your treatment plan to help reduce tooth sensitivity and help you reach your perfect smile with minimal discomfort.