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Tooth Sensitivity: What Causes It and How to Deal with It

Tooth sensitivity can be pretty painful and may affect one or more of your teeth. It can cause unpleasant sensations whenever you eat or drink something hot or cold or which is sweet or sour. Sometimes even breathing in on a cold day can be enough to set off the pain of tooth sensitivity. So what causes it?

tooth-sensitivityTooth sensitivity is caused when the dentine layer of a tooth becomes exposed. Normally your dentine is protected by tooth enamel, but if the tooth enamel becomes worn or is damaged in any way it can expose the dentine which is a much softer and more vulnerable part of the tooth. Dentine consists of lots of tiny tubules that lead directly to the central part of your tooth called the pulp. The pulp contains nerves which is why any sensations that reach it are painful. Dentine can also become exposed if you have gum recession and where the roots of your teeth are showing. Your tooth roots are not protected by tooth enamel but instead are covered by a softer material called cementum which is much more easily eroded away.

Factors that can expose your dentine include:

  • Over brushing your teeth can wear away your tooth enamel. Ideally you should use a soft or medium bristled toothbrush and you don’t need to brush your teeth very hard to get great results.
  • Tooth decay will also expose the dentine.
  • Any damage to a tooth that has resulted in the tooth enamel becoming chipped or cracked will let bacteria into the dentine, potentially causing decay and infection and tooth sensitivity.
  • If you clench or grind your teeth then this can wear down your tooth enamel, exposing the dentine underneath. Tooth grinding is a nocturnal habit, but you might have begun to notice that your teeth look slightly shorter or more worn down than you remember and of course you could develop tooth sensitivity.
  • Overusing teeth whitening products can cause tooth sensitivity which is why we always recommend professional teeth whitening in Harrow as your dentist will make sure treatment is safe, minimising side effects such as tooth sensitivity.

Other factors such as age, eating too many acidic foods that may erode your tooth enamel and even having recent dental work can temporarily increase tooth sensitivity. It is important to visit a dentist in Harrow to find out the exact cause of your tooth sensitivity just in case it is due to an untreated dental problem. Using the correct brushing and flossing techniques will also help protect your teeth and a fluoride mouthwash can provide a little added protection by helping to slightly harden your tooth enamel.

Quite a few people find using toothpaste especially designed for sensitive teeth to be very effective. This toothpaste contains special ingredients designed to slowly block up the tubules in your dentine that lead to the pulp, reducing tooth sensitivity. The effect is cumulative so you need to be prepared to use the toothpaste for several weeks to feel the full benefits. This is not a substitute for proper dental care and cannot replace a check-up with our dentist in Harrow.

If you’d like to enjoy an ice cream without wincing in pain, then please contact Imperial Dental Care. An appointment with our dentist in Harrow will soon determine why your teeth are sensitive so call us today on 020 8427 2264. Alternatively you can book online through our website at

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