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Sensitivity may affect either a single tooth or a major portion of the dental row. Once it occurs, tooth sensitivity makes normal activities like brushing, flossing, eating and drinking uncomfortable by sending up spikes of pain at unexpected moments. So what is the cause of tooth sensitivity and how to prevent it? Here are some answers.
Structure of tooth
Your teeth are divided into two parts; the crown and the root. The crown portion appears above the gums and consists of an enamel coating, which is the hardest substance in the body. Under it is a layer called dentine, and below that, is the pulp section containing blood tissues and nerves which continue under the gums. The enamel layer protects the tooth from sudden stimuli of heat, cold, contact with sharp objects like toothbrush bristles etc.
There are two major causes of tooth sensitivity:
The enamel layer of the tooth can erode out of several reasons, like brushing teeth too hard, or teeth grinding, or the acidic influence of high pH foods (oranges, cheese, chick peas etc). This leaves the vulnerable dentine section exposed. Direct contact with hot/cold/sweet/sour food triggers off the natural plasma in the dentil tubule, and the stimulus is carried to the mechanoreceptors in the nerve cells of the dental cavity, which give a response of pain.
Put simply, gum recession is the slow erosion of the gums away from a particular tooth, where it had clamped the tooth in position. There are several causes of this; like gum disease, inadequate nutrition etc. Since enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, gum recession exposes the dentine layer normally hidden inside the gums. As food or other material slips into the cavity between the gum and the root, the contact sets off the same reaction in the dental cavity
How to cure tooth sensitivity
There are numerous ways of preventing tooth sensitivity.
As inaccurate brushing techniques accelerate the wearing down of the enamel, you must brush according to scientific procedure. This involves holding the brush at a 450 angle and executing a circular motion over the teeth row. You can also go for an electric toothbrush, which causes the brush to move circularly.
Food with a high pH balance can erode the enamel, so try to keep to a balanced diet. For general good health, your diet should contain 60% alkaline and 40% acidic foods. Avoid artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Stevia etc and also cut down on natural sources of acidic food—corn, lentil, bacon, peanuts, cheese etc.
Gum disease is caused by vitamin deficiency, over-acidic food, inadequate brushing and other reasons. Keeping good oral hygiene will mitigate the possibility of gum disease and protect against tooth sensitivity as well.
Once tooth sensitivity has already occurred, it cannot be reversed unless you remove the tooth. However, you can try using desensitizing toothpaste, chewing gum or mouthwash, which have 5% potassium based compounds, which acts as a desensitizing agent. Also, you can contact your dentist for a gingival grafting which will replaces the eroded gum tissue by grafting from another area, and by inserting dental filling. You will also have to regulate your diet and avoid food that causes hypersensitivity, or apply a fluoride coating to stop further tooth decay.