What you need to know

Teeth sensitivity is a common oral health problem affecting one or more teeth of many adult individuals on global basis, yet few of them bring this issue to the attention of either their dentist or dental hygienist. Most of these patients develop coping strategies to the sensitivity such as less or no ice cold drinks, use of straw direct fluids away from the sensitive tooth, tooth brushing with warm water, avoiding using the side of sensitivity while chewing etc.

Teeth sensitivity is characterized by short sharp pain arising from exposed dentin in response to stimuli thermal (hot and cold), evaporative (air being blown or inhaled on sensitive tooth/teeth), Flossing or dental instruments used by dentists, osmotic or chemical (pain in response to sugar/ acid).

Causes of sensitivity

The two main causes of sensitivity is gingival (gum) recession and tooth wear.

Gingival (Gum) Recession 

The gingival recession is caused by overly aggressive oral hygiene such as hard tooth brush or a lot of force while brushing or wrong technique of brushing or even using abrasive tooth pastes. The other cause of gum recession is neglected oral hygiene and inflammation of the gum due to plaque accumulation resulting in gum disease.

Gum recession (gum disease)





Tooth wear

Tooth wear may be due to erosion, attrition or acute trauma (tooth fracture). Tooth wear could be due to toothbrush abrasion or excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth.

Erosion of the teeth could be due to various acids that are common in our diet and it is accepted that an increase in acid intake corresponds with an increase in erosion. Generally, a pH of 5.5 0r lower is capable of softening the surface of the teeth within only a few minutes and a softened tooth surface is vulnerable to physical abrasive forces leading to irreplaceable loss and thus tooth wear. Also sensitivity is one of the most commonly reported complaints among users of in-office or at home dental bleaching materials used in whitening teeth. Decay of teeth (caries) is also another contributing factor to sensitivity.

Tooth brush abrasion





The first step towards intervention of teeth sensitivity is screening and diagnosis by the dentist. The cause of the sensitivity will be found and the dentist will manage the sensitivity as per the diagnosis made.

There are many different desensitizing toothpastes in the market and also in office. Desensitizers used are also used by the dentist in the clinic. After the diagnosis, the dentist will be in the best position to give the patient the best recommendations.

The advances in scientific understanding which have occurred over the past twenty years, now allow a more comprehensive approach to teeth hypersensitivity management that encompasses the control of its curative and predisposing factors. Indeed, management strategies have been proposed which include:

1. Correct diagnosis, compatible with the clinical description of teeth hypersensitivity, based upon history and examination.

2. Differential diagnosis, to exclude other conditions which might give rise to similar pain.

3. Treatment of all secondary conditions that induce symptoms similar to teeth hypersensitivity.

4. Identification of causative and predisposing factors, particularly dietary and oral hygiene habits pertinent to erosion and abrasion.

5. Removal or minimization of causative and predisposing factors through dietary advice and oral hygiene instruction.

6. Recommendation or provision of treatment based upon individual needs.





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