Call Now Book Online Now
map icon McKennell Dental Practice
21 Churton Street,
London, SW1V2LY
Inner Page Banner  - McKennell Dental Practice

Tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity can range from a mild discomforting sensation to severe discomfort lasting several hours. It may also indicate a more serious dental condition.

Who experiences sensitive teeth?

Many people experience tooth sensitivity, and this can start at any time. Tooth sensitivity mostly affects people between 20 – 40 years, but it can also occur in the early teenage years and in people over 70. Women have a higher risk of having tooth sensitivity than men.

What can cause tooth sensitivity?

The tooth's visible part has a layer of enamel that protects the more sensitive and softer dentine underneath. If the dentine becomes exposed, tooth sensitivity may occur. Sensitivity often happens when the enamel layer and the area where the tooth and gum meet are thinner.

Common causes of tooth sensitivity include:

  • Brushing aggressively (toothbrush abrasion) and brushing from side to side can result in the wearing down of the enamel, especially where the teeth and gums meet. The exposed dentine may cause sensitivity.
  • Dental erosion – the loss of the tooth enamel causes due to acid attacks from acidic drinks and food. A worn-down enamel exposes the dentine underneath, which may cause sensitivity.
  • Natural gum recession will expose the root of the teeth, making the area more sensitive because the root area does not have enamel to protect them.
  • Gum disease – plaque or tartar accumulation can lead to receding gums and destroying the bone that supports the teeth. Pockets can form in the gums surrounding the teeth. This makes it difficult to keep the area clean and worsens the problem.
  • Teeth grinding – this is grinding or clenching the teeth, which can wear down the enamel and cause sensitivity
  • A cracked filling or tooth
  • Tooth bleaching – some people have sensitivity for a short time while bleaching the teeth or afterwards. Ensure you consult your dental team about this before treatment

When is tooth sensitivity likely to occur?

Your risk of experiencing tooth sensitivity is higher when eating or drinking something cold, from cold air getting to your teeth and, sometimes, hot drinks or foods. Some people also experience tooth sensitivity when they have acidic or sweet drinks and food. The pain can be recurring and worse at some times.

Do I need to avoid anything if I have sensitive teeth?

Cold, hot, acidic or sweet foods and drinks can cause sensitivity, so consider avoiding them. If tooth sensitivity occurs while brushing your teeth with cold water from your tap, try using warm water. Ensure you still brush your teeth. If not, the problem may become worse.

Do I need to visit a dentist?

Yes, you do. If you've tried treating tooth sensitivity for a few weeks without improvement, ensure you visit your dentist.

What are the treatments for tooth sensitivity?

During your dental exam, the dentist will discuss your symptoms. Your dentist will examine your teeth to determine the cause of your sensitivity and the most suitable treatment. The dentist may treat the affected teeth with a de-sensitising product to relieve your symptoms.

The dentist can apply fluoride varnishes, rinses or gels to the sensitive teeth at your regular appointments one or two weeks apart to protect the teeth. Tooth sensitivity can take a while to settle, and you may have several appointments for treatments. If these treatments don't relieve the treatment, your dentist may fill or seal around the neck of your tooth where it meets the gum to cover your exposed dentine. If the sensitivity is severe, filling the tooth root may be necessary.

What can I do at home to treat sensitive teeth?

Several brands of toothpaste are available to help relieve the pain of tooth sensitivity. You can use fluoride toothpaste twice daily to brush your teeth and also rub it on sensitive areas. These toothpaste brands can take a few days to several weeks to relieve the discomfort. Your dental care provider can advise you on the most suitable toothpaste.

How can I prevent tooth sensitivity?

  • Brush your teeth before bed and at least once during the day with a fluoride toothpaste containing up to 1350 ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. You can opt for toothpaste for sensitive teeth. While brushing, use small, circular movements and a soft-to-medium-bristled brush. Avoid brushing your teeth from side to side.
  • Do not brush immediately after eating – some drinks and foods can soften your enamel, so wait at least one hour before brushing.
  • Change your toothbrush every 2 – 3 months or sooner if the bristles are worn out.
  • Limit your intake of sugary foods and acidic and fizzy drinks, and if you have to take them, do so at mealtimes.
  • If you grind your teeth, consult your dentist to get a mouthguard.
  • If you want to bleach your teeth, discuss tooth sensitivity with your dentist before treatment.
  • Visit your dentist regularly, as often as recommended.

Our dentists at McKennell Dental Practice will examine your teeth to determine the cause of your tooth sensitivity. Visit us today or call 020 7834 8802 to schedule an appointment for your dental exam and treatment if necessary.