Many people suffer from sensitive teeth and it can start at any time. It is more common in people aged between 20 and 40.

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The part of the tooth we can see has a layer of enamel that protects the softer dentine underneath. If the dentine is exposed, a tooth can become sensitive. This usually happens where the tooth and the gum meet and the enamel layer is much thinner. Here are some causes of sensitivity:

  • Brushing too hard (‘toothbrush abrasion’), and brushing from side to side, can cause enamel to be worn away .
  • Dental erosion: this is loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks.
  • Gums may naturally recede (shrink back ), and the roots of the teeth will become exposed and can be more sensitive. 
  • Gum disease: a build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and even destroy the bony support of the tooth. Pockets can form in the gums around the tooth, making the area difficult to keep clean and the problem worse.
  • Tooth grinding: this is a habit which involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive.
  • cracked tooth or filling.
  • Tooth bleaching: some patients have sensitivity for a short time during bleaching or afterwards.

Do I need to go and see my dentist?

Yes, if you have tried treating your sensitive teeth for a few weeks and have had no improvement.

How can I prevent sensitive teeth?

  • Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. Consider using toothpaste specially designed for sensitive teeth. Use small, circular movements with a soft-to medium-bristled brush. Try to avoid brushing your teeth from side to side.
  • Change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if it becomes worn.
  • Don’t brush straight after eating – some foods and drinks can soften the enamel of your teeth, so leave it for at least an hour before you brush.
  • Have sugary foods, and fizzy and acidic drinks, less often. Try to have them just at mealtimes.
  • If you grind your teeth, talk to your dental team about whether you should have a mouthguard made, to wear at night.
  • If you are thinking about having your teeth bleached, discuss sensitivity with your dental team before starting treatment.
  • Visit your dental team regularly, as often as they recommend.
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