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Sensitive Teeth

Ever experienced a tingling sensation in your teeth while drinking a cold glass of water or a hot beverage (sometimes the tingling sensation is so bad it makes you feel faint or weak in the knees)? Chances are you have a case of sensitive teeth or dentine hypersensitivity.

Dentine hypersensitivity occurs when dentin nerves are exposed to triggers like food and environment. Nerves are usually exposed when gums recede and when teeth are fractured, decayed or infected. The sensation can be mild (irritation) or severe (excruciating pain). Common culprits are food (hot and cold beverages, hot and cold foods, sweet and sour foods) and pressure.

Symptoms

Sensitive teeth symptoms can vary. Some people report sensitivity while brushing their teeth or when teeth make contact with a metal object—ouch! The mind may be willing to snack on strawberry sherbet, but the teeth are unwilling. In this war, sensitive teeth always win.

Treatment

How to overcome sensitive teeth? Over-the-counter products are available to relieve hypersensitivity such as desensitizing toothpastes, mouthwashes and chewing gums. Toothpastes for sensitive teeth often contain potassium, a mineral believed to inactivate tooth nerves. However, if pain and discomfort persists, see your dentist or periodontist.

Prevention

To minimize the pain caused by sensitive teeth, proper oral hygiene is a must. Use toothbrushes that have soft bristles. Throw away hard bristle toothbrushes—they may cause further damage to the teeth and gums. Use toothpaste that is specially made for sensitive teeth.

When brushing, use a circular motion instead of a forward-backward stroke. Ideally, you should brush your teeth after every meal; if this is not possible, just rinse your mouth with water. Don’t forget to floss daily (at least once a day) to remove food particles between the teeth. Avoid grinding your teeth as this breaks down the enamel (enamel is the teeth’s protective outer layer).