Hi, Dr James here I’m one of the Principal Dentists at Elevate Dental here in Melbourne.
Yesterday, I was speaking with one of our regular patients, Sheryl, from Kew. She noticed feeling pain after a spoonful of hot soup or a small bite of ice cream. She felt like her teeth were becoming more sensitive, so she asked, “Why are my teeth so sensitive? What can I do about them?”
This is such a great question that I know many people are curious about, so I thought I’d make a short video about Sensitive Teeth.
A tooth surface above the gums is made up of several layers. The outer hard whiter layer is called the enamel. This is a main protective layer against acidic dietary damage and grinding. Under this layer is a soft yellow layer called the dentine. When this layer is exposed or involved, any dental decay spreads much more rapidly and the tooth here is much weaker. This dentine layer also usually detects or exhibits sensitivity much more than the outer enamel layer. More importantly, once bacteria enter the deeper parts of this layer, it is much more likely to infect the final deep layer called the pulp or the nerve.
Below the gum level, the tooth surface is called the root surface. Tooth sensitivity is nearly always caused by a breakdown or damage to the surfaces. This may be due to dental decay, acids from foods, drinks, or gastrointestinal acids that weaken the enamel layer. Once the damage extends past the enamel into the inner dentine layer, the tooth may become sensitive.
There may be worn, old fillings or broken fillings. Fillings usually extend into the inner dentine layer. That’s similar to having dental decay. If there is a problem with an old filling, there may be sensitivity.
Cracked teeth. Cracks are usually caused by clenching or grinding. This habit causes extreme pressure on the teeth and can cause teeth that are otherwise strong and healthy to actually crack and split. This crack will often be sensitive when it has split into the middle layer. Teeth that are old or have large fillings are much more likely to crack than teeth with very small or no fillings.
Brushing too hard. Patients may notice that they brush too hard, such as with a medium or high bristle toothbrush or the brushing involves brushing too close to the gum line. The fragile gums can get damaged and recede, and this exposes the underlying root surface, which can get sensitive.
The roots are also much softer than the enamel layer. So even with a softer brush, the roots can still get damaged over time. Gum disease can also cause the gums to recede rapidly and with the exposed root, sensitivity can also be a problem.
The best things to do with teeth sensitivity are, having regular six-monthly dental health check appointments. Any dental conditions or changes can be detected very early on. And if treatment is needed, this is usually much smaller and simpler as it’s diagnosed in its early stages. Make sure to have a balanced, healthy diet that is low in dietary sugars and acids. It’s critical to drink water throughout the day, especially after having anything to eat or drink. Maintaining good home oral hygiene habits, such as brushing at least twice a day for two minutes each time with either a soft manual or electric toothbrush.. and don’t forget to floss too. As the old adage goes, floss the teeth that you want to keep. Lastly, be mindful of any clenching and grinding, and it helps to ask a family member if they notice anything. At your regular dental health check appointments, we’ll also assess the teeth for any visible damage from this habit.
If your tooth sensitivity is making it difficult for you to eat, you should talk to a dentist. You might need to get treatment immediately to prevent serious complications in the near future. And we’d love to look after you!
Here at Elevate Dental, we always do our best to serve you with compassion and comfort. We are conveniently located at both Hawthorn and Richmond with free onsite parking. Simply call us on 1300 2 SMILE, complete the form on our website or direct message us on social media. And we’ll be in touch to help you organise your consultation. See you in the next video.
Note: All content and media on the Elevate Dental website and social media channels are created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.