Image of a woman biting into an icecream, grimacing in pain from the cold

Tooth Sensitivity

When to see an emergency dentist

If you have:

  • Tooth sensitivity that can't be stopped by using desensitising toothpastes for 2-3 weeks.

What to do if you have sensitive teeth

  • Avoid food and drinks that are likely to cause you sensitivity.
  • Use a desensitising fluoridated toothpaste. If one brand doesn't work, try another.
  • As well as brushing with the desensitising toothpaste, use it as a cream and rub it on the affected area before bed.
  • Stop your teeth whitening if you are in the middle of treatment and your teeth have become too sensitive.

Finally, book an appointment with an emergency dentist near you.

Causes

Dentine Hypersensitivity - This is the most common cause of tooth sensitivity, and is typically found in areas where there is no enamel covering the dentine layer of your tooth. There are multiple reasons why this happens:

Gum recession – The gum may recede through ageing or overzealous brushing techniques, exposing the root surface of the tooth, which has no protective enamel layer.

Grinding – Patient's that grind their teeth can sometimes wear away the enamel and expose the underlying dentine.

Erosion – There are two sources of substances that could erode your teeth. Extrinsic - Acidic food and drinks that you consume can erode your teeth and expose the underlying dentine. Intrinsic – Acids produced by your stomach in patients suffering from reflux disorders or bulimic patients can again erode your teeth.

Gum disease – Patients that suffer with gum disease lose the bone that helps to keep their teeth stable. This exposes more of the root surface that is not covered in the protective enamel layer and so increases the risk of sensitivity.

Cracked tooth – If a patient has a cracked or broken tooth, there is an increased likelihood that some dentine is exposed and you are more likely to experience sensitivity.

Bleaching – Prior to starting a course of whitening treatment, your dentist should discuss the risks with you. Tooth sensitivity is one of the more common risks when whitening your teeth.

Emergency Treatment

Dentine Hypersensitivity – The dentist will examine you and your teeth to diagnose where the sensitivity is coming from and the likely cause. Following this they may decide to do one or more of the following:

  • Reassurance and advise to use a desensitising fluoridated toothpaste
  • Apply a fluoride varnish on one or more occasion to help desensitise the area in question
  • Restore the tooth with a filling to cover the exposed dentine
  • Perform root canal treatment (Unlikely but possible if nothing else works)
  • Tooth extraction (Unlikely but possible if nothing else works)

Prevention

The best way to prevent tooth sensitivity is as follows:

  • Visit your dentist regularly at a time period specified by your dentist. Children should visit the dentist every 6 months from when their first teeth appear.
  • Brush your teeth twice daily for two minutes with an appropriate fluoride toothpaste for your age. Use a soft/medium bristled brush and replace it every 3 months. Brush in circular motions with gentle pressure.
  • Clean between your teeth with interdental brushes daily, and use a daily non-alcohol based fluoride mouthwash. Don't rinse your mouth out with water after brushing.
  • Reduce the amount and the frequency of sugar in your diet.
  • If you eat or drink anything acidic, try not to brush immediately after.
  • If you grind your teeth, consider getting your dentist to construct a mouth guard to wear at night.
  • Don't smoke and limit your alcohol consumption to the recommended amounts.