Ever experience a tingling sense of pain or discomfort after drinking a spoonful of hot soup or taking a bite out of your ice cream? This painful sensation that occurs whenever you try to eat hot or cold foods could be a sign of a cavity. But likelier than not, it’s a sign that you have sensitive teeth.
You’re not alone in this. According to a 2016 study, nearly two-thirds of Singaporeans suffer from tooth sensitivity. But what exactly is tooth sensitivity? Also known as dentin hypersensitivity, it’s a feeling of pain or discomfort in the teeth in response to certain stimuli like a cold or hot temperature. How can you tell whether or not your teeth are sensitive?
The temperature of your food and beverages isn’t the only thing likely to trigger a bout of pain. Things like cold weather or cold air—say from an air conditioner, can have the same effect. Even foods that are particularly sweet or sour (acidic) could trigger a reaction.
Unfortunately, this painful sensation could occur even if you’re just brushing, flossing or using an alcohol-based mouthwash to rinse your mouth. Since it’s only temporary, this feeling may come and go without any obvious reason—ranging from mild to moderate or intense pain in severe cases.
If you think you can’t develop sensitive teeth with your metal, lingual, invisalign or ceramic braces, think again. As an orthodontic patient, your braces adjust the position of your teeth, making them actually more sensitive than normal.
The defensive layer of enamel coating the surface of our teeth exists to protect the underlying softer dentin layer while our gums protect the roots of our teeth. When the enamel layer is eroded, it exposes the dentin that is connected to the nerve endings—thus causing pain.
Here are possible underlying reasons as to why you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity issues.
Tooth decay: What everyone assumes when they experience pain in the teeth is that it’s a cavity. Most of the time, that’s indeed the case. An untreated cavity exposes nerve endings in the teeth, causing pain upon being exposed to the cold.
Forceful brushing: Overly vigorous brushing of the teeth, especially with a hard-bristled toothbrush over the same spot, will wear down tooth enamel over time, exposing the dentin layer to the food and drinks that enter your mouth. Consuming anything cold may irritate the nerves, causing sharp, intermittent pain in the mouth.
Teeth grinding: Similarly, the repeated friction from you grinding or clenching your teeth wears down your protective tooth enamel. If the habit goes on, it may cause sensitivity of the teeth upon contact with anything cold.
Too much acidic food/beverage intake: The acid in these types of foods and beverages can corrode your tooth enamel and expose nerve endings. Some examples of these foods and drinks include lemons, meats and grains, as well as soft drinks, alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
Gum recession: After hitting the age of 40, some may experience gum recession due to poor oral health. Plaque build-up on the teeth or along the gum line causes the gums to become infected and inflamed. This damages the gum tissue, making gums recede from the root surfaces of the teeth, thereby leaving sections of your teeth exposed and unprotected.
In Singapore, braces cost quite a bit. One might think that it’s the same when it comes to trying to treat your tooth sensitivity. Worry not—there are plenty of ways to treat this condition—and it’s probably nowhere near as expensive as however much your clear braces cost you! Do check out our next article to find out how you can do so.