What is hypersensitivity?
Essentially, hypersensitivity refers to the sharp pain experienced when the exposed dentine (the part of your tooth which is connected with the nerves within the tooth itself) responds to some sort of stimuli - this could be anything from a thermal stimulus (hot or cold drinks, for example), to chemicals in acidic or sweet foods, or a sensation of touch. The pain of hypersensitivity does not, therefore, come from any sort of dental defect or illness.
How prevalent is hypersensitivity?
In short: it’s very common indeed. In fact, anywhere between 8% and 57% of the population will experience it at some point.
What is the cause?
When dentine inside the tooth is exposed, hypersensitivity can occur. This happens usually through some loss of the enamel (the protective, tough outer part of a tooth), gum recession (when the gum shrinks away from the surface of the tooth root), brushing too rigorously, grinding of the teeth or dental bleaching.
Tooth enamel starts to become eroded when acids are present in the mouth. Over time, teeth can repair themselves using the minerals in your saliva - but if acid is inside your mouth too regularly, the teeth do not have the chance to fully repair. The result is the thinning of the enamel, often referred to as enamel erosion.
What can my Quality Dental NHS Dentist Fulham do?
Firstly, your dentist will rule out the presence of any dental disease which may be causing the pain you’re experiencing. If this possibility can be eliminated, the dentist will suggest a special toothpaste for sensitive teeth, and will give you a list of stimuli you should try to avoid. The sensitivity should eventually disappear by itself, but this could take several months.
What is dental erosion?
Dental erosion is the gradual wearing away and thinning of tooth enamel, the hard outer coating of your teeth. Enamel is there partly to protect the sensitive dentine, and when it begins to disappear the result is that you may find your teeth highly sensitive to things like hot or cold food and drinks, and pain may be experienced when your teeth are exposed to them.
What can cause dental erosion?
- Each time your teeth encounter acidic food and drinks, the enamel on your teeth will soften for a short period of time. This is because the acids in your mouth cause the enamel to lose some mineral content. Your body is prepared for this; your saliva can neutralise these acids, and restore the pH balance in your mouth, thus allowing your teeth to repair themselves. However, repeated exposure to acids can cause the enamel to be brushed away, and over time, the surface of your teeth will be lost.
- Tooth enamel can also be eroded by strong stomach acids.
- Inefficient or incorrect brushing of your teeth can also cause enamel to wear away.
How do I stop dental erosion?
Fizzy drinks (including mineral water and diet brand), squashes, sports drinks and fruit juices are all acidic, although not necessarily all to the same degree. These should be avoided when possible, and only drank at meal times. These drinks should be drunk quickly, and shouldn’t be kept in the mouth for any longer than necessary. In between meals, you should endeavour to drink only ‘safe’, non-acidic drinks, such as water, coffee, tea or milk.
Examples of acidic foods would include citrus fruits and pickles.
Even some medicines are acidic - you can check with your doctor should you wish to avoid them.
Illnesses which cause frequent vomiting or gastric reflux (such as eating disorders) can be harmful when it comes to dental erosion, as the teeth will be exposed to powerful stomach acids.
You should brush your teeth within an hour of drinking or eating anything acidic. This is because teeth that have been exposed to these acids can be easily abraded.
Brushing too aggressively or excessively can lead to gum recession. Speak to your NHS Fulham Dentist is you need advice on effective brushing techniques.
Chewing sugar-free gum after mealtimes is also beneficial; this helps your mouth produce more saliva, which neutralises acids formed in the mouth after eating.
How can dental erosion be treated?
Actually, dental erosion doesn’t always need treating. The most important thing is to keep the tooth (and the sensitive dentine within the toot) protected, as this will help you avoid the pain of hypersensitivity. If your dentist needs to take action, simply by bonding a filling onto a tooth may probably be enough to repair the damage. Such bonded fillings, however, may need to be refilled regularly as they might eventually de-bond in the mouth.