Sensitive teeth; when should you visit a dentist about sensitive teeth

April 15, 2021


We have seen more than our fair share of patients at our dentist in Nottingham so far this year, despite great challenges, but it is always surprising how many people seem to fit into one of two groups. The first is as regular as clockwork attending their check-ups with little or nothing in the way of symptoms. And then there's the second group, who have not attended a check-up recently, but need an emergency appointment in the next 24 hours as they are in great distress.

Sensitive teeth seem to run undetected between the two; not seen much in the check-up group but not seen much in the emergency group either. But it is such a common issue in the general population. It seems sensitive teeth are not seen as a serious dental issue by many of our patients. Or at least, it is thought so minor that it is not worth making an appointment with our dentist in Nottingham. But that's just not true. Let's talk more about tooth sensitivity and what you can do about it.

How sensitivity occurs

Teeth have layers like onions, the outermost layer is a hard, impermeable layer of neatly lined up calcium crystals like a biological diamond. It is the hardest material in your body and it has to deal with such hard abrasion during eating alone that this hardness can become brittle and can be chipped and cracked.

The second layer is the dentine, which is off-white, yellow-cream coloured, spongy, porous calcium structure not that different from the coral in a coral reef. Deep in the middle of the tooth is the pulp with the tooth’s blood supply and nerves.

When the enamel is disrupted (or in some way compromised) the highly porous dentine can do little to protect the nerves, and it can easily become agitated by a hot or cold stimulus.

The causes of sensitivity

There are lots of ways enamel can become damaged; here are a few we have seen at our dentist in Nottingham.

The two most common methods involve tooth whitening; the bleaching methods using peroxides and abrasions methods where a few microns of the enamel is deliberately ground off the tooth's surface. If not carried out with skill and correct tools both of these techniques can cause very acute sensitivity, as peroxides make the enamel more permeable and abrasion thins out the enamel.

Gum recession can be a symptom of gum disease and with the abrasion from over-brushing, as the gum recedes, the root of the tooth is exposed. The root has no enamel so the dentine is exposed, causing a sudden bout of sensitivity which can be caused by a cracked tooth or the loss of a filling resulting in contact between the air and the nerve.

If the sensitivity is at the tips of your teeth it could be caused by grinding your teeth which is not uncommon and some patients grind their teeth while they sleep. If you wake up with jaw stiffness this could be the sources of your tooth sensitivity.

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