Sensitive Teeth

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Cavities and fractured teeth can cause sensitive teeth, as well as worn tooth enamel, cracked or exposed teeth.

A layer of enamel, a very strong substance, protects the crowns of your teeth. A layer called cementum protects the tooth root under the gums. Beneath the enamel and the cementum is dentin, a part of the tooth that is less dense.

The dentin contains microscopic dentinal tubules (small hollow channels) which go down into the tooth's nerve centre, the pulp. If the enamel and cementum is worn away, the dentin loses its protective covering, and the tubules allow heat and cold or acidic and sticky foods to reach the nerves in the tooth. This causes sensitivity and pain. This however, does not cause permanent damage to the pulp. Damage can be minimised with proper oral hygiene.

Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing gums from receding and causing tooth sensitivity. If you brush your teeth incorrectly or over-brush, gum problems can result.

Sensitivity after placement of a restoration

It is not unusual to have some initial sensitivity after a filling is placed. Often the gum around the tooth can be a little tender- in particular when decay has gone between the teeth- necessitating the use of bands or strips. It is not uncommon for a tooth to be sensitive to cold immediately after the placement of a large or deep restoration, Provided the pain is of short duration and gradually lessens over the next few weeks the tooth should eventually settle.

It can also be difficult to establish the correct bite when teeth are numb and when the muscles round your jaw are tired, making it difficult to close in the correct position. Teeth which are high in your bite, will become tender to bite on and may also become temperature sensitive. It is important to come back for an adjustment should your bite feel incorrect.

Occasionally after the placement of a restoration a tooth can become non-vital and require root canal treatment. Each time we replace a filling there is trauma to the pulp (nerve, blood supply). This trauma is caused by a combination of the drilling itself, toxins released by the bacteria that cause decay and the reaction of the pulp to the filling materials themselves. Other factors such as tooth grinding and fracture lines within teeth also affect the health of the pulp.

The accumulation of this trauma over time can result in a 'stressed pulp', that is a state of chronic near-death. As a result, a tooth which was seemingly fine prior to dental treatment may require root canal treatment afterwards because the pulp of that tooth, having already been compromised, is unable to withstand any further stress.

Teeth that are, or are becoming non-vital generally become sensitive to hot and cold, as well as being tender to bite on. Pain will often arise spontaneously and last for a long period of time, perhaps even be constant and will often be throbbing in nature. Should this occur please contact us immediately.

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