Dr Paul Wong of SMILEFOCUS outlines simple ways to care for sensitive teeth.
Not everyone can enjoy the sweet indulgence of an iced coffee topped with cream, a raspberry icy-pole or serve of hokey pokey ice cream. People with sensitive teeth may be deprived of such simple pleasures – not because of dietary reasons, but because taking the smallest sip, bite or spoonful can bring a sudden onset of sharp pain.
Sensitive teeth can develop in several ways. Extreme hot and cold temperature changes can cause teeth to expand and contract. An example would be crunching ice with your teeth. Over time, your teeth can develop tiny cracks, which allow sensation to be transmitted to the nerve of your tooth, causing discomfort and pain. This painful reaction – referred to as “cracked tooth syndrome” – can also be triggered by sweet or sour food and drinks. Your tooth may also be sensitive to biting pressure,
causing a sudden sharp pain that shoots deep into the nerve endings of your teeth. Most of these fracture lines cannot be seen, but whether or not a fracture is found, sensitivity to pressure and cold usually indicates a problem.
If your teeth are sensitive along the gumline and you experience discomfort only when brushing your teeth, this can suggest you have an exposed area of dentin. Dentin is the protein-rich layer under the enamel – a tooth’s in-built shock absorber. Because tooth enamel is thinner along the gumline, it can be worn away by abrasion from hard-bristled toothbrushes or aggressive brushing. Using a medium or hard toothbrush will irritate your gums, leading to some recession. Whereas a soft brush with proper use – without aggressive scrubbing and brushing – cares for your teeth. Switching to an electric toothbrush is also useful in reducing damage.
Causes of tooth pain can range from a simple case of root sensitivity – requiring only therapeutic toothpaste treatment – to an abscessed tooth requiring root canal treatment. Pain due to temperature and/or pressure sensitivity can be best diagnosed by your dentist when examining your tooth visually and by x-ray, to find the cause of your problem.
Simple solutions – perhaps a dab of fluoride or bonding material overlaid on the worn part of your tooth for larger areas – can bring you great relief. Don’t hesitate to visit your dentist to review any sensitivity. You’ll then be able to enjoy a painless ice-cold drink on a hot Singapore day!
Dr Paul Wong BDSc (Western Australia)
Dr Paul Wong has 10 years of experience in general dentistry and has worked in community dentistry and private practice in Australia before coming to Singapore three years ago. Paul has a keen interest in cosmetic dentistry.