Sensitive Teeth and Gums

Sensitive Teeth and Gums

Is the taste of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee painful for you? Does brushing or flossing make you wince occasionally? If so, you may have sensitive teeth. It can range from a mild sensation of discomfort to severe discomfort for several hours.


What causes sensitive teeth? 

The sensitivity experienced is mostly attributed to the exposure of dentin, which is normally protected by a layer of enamel (above your gum line) and by cementum (under the gum line). Dentin contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes). When dentin loses its protective covering, these tubules become exposed to external factors (e.g. heat, cold, acidic drinks) which reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth causing sensitivity.

Causes of sensitivity:

  • Brushing too hard or with a hard-bristled toothbrush can cause the enamel to erode. You should use a brush with soft to medium bristles at a 45°C angle to the gum line. 
  • Gum disease involves gum recession, exposing the tooth root. The surface of the root does not have an enamel layer to protect it.
  • Tooth grinding: this can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away.
  • Tooth decay (cavities)

What helps sensitive teeth?

  • Brushing your teeth last thing at night and at one other time during the day with a fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350ppm (parts per million) of fluoride.
  • Brush your teeth in small, circular movements with a soft-to medium-bristled brush.
  • Replace your toothbrush every two to three months, or when the bristles become splayed.
  • Don't brush straight after eating - some foods and drinks can soften the enamel of your teeth.
  • Reduce your intake of sugary foods and acidic drinks.
  • Wear a mouthguard at night if you grind your teeth.

Do I need to see a Dentist?

If there is no improvement after a few weeks, you should make an appointment with your dentist. During your dental checkup, your dentist will find the best way for you to treat your teeth sensitivity. Fluoride gels, rinses or varnishes may be applied during several appointments.