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With the days getting longer and summer fast approaching now is the perfect time to enjoy an ice cream at Wollongong Harbour, but for many people rather than this being a lovely way to spend an afternoon, the idea will put their teeth on edge.

Tooth sensitivity affects 1 in 3 people and sufferers can find they have painful reactions to food and drinks that are cold, hot, sweet and or sour. For some, the sensitivity will come and go but for others the sensitivity will be frequent and the level of discomfort can vary from a little bit uncomfortable to sharp and sudden. 

What causes sensitivity?

There can be many reasons which cause tooth sensitivity and your dentist is the best person to diagnose any underlying dental problem for your sensitivity. Common causes include;

  • Aggressive brushing. Scrubbing the teeth with a hard or medium tooth brush can wear away the protective enamel layer of the tooth, leaving the dentine (internal layer) exposed and causing sensitivity
  • Tooth erosion due to acidic food and drinks, or stomach acid from reflux or vomiting
  • Gum recession that leaves the root surface exposed
  • Tooth decay, worn fillings and broken teeth that expose the dentine (second layer) of a tooth
  • Grinding and clenching teeth at night during sleep, causing the enamel to wear away
  • Routine dental work, such as fillings, crowns, tooth whitening and a scale and clean can all result in temporary, short term sensitivity.

What can I do to alleviate the symptoms?

  • Brush your teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste for two minutes, twice a day. Angle the toothbrush bristles at a 45 degree angle towards the gum line and brush each tooth gently in a circular motion, not a lot of pressure is needed to keep your teeth clean
  • Floss 1-2xdaily to remove the plaque from in between your teeth, where the toothbrush bristles can’t reach
  • Consider using a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth twice daily. Your dentist can recommend the type and brand best suited to your own individual needs
  • Avoid food and drink high in sugar and acids
  • Don’t brush your teeth immediately straight after eating or drinking something sugary or acidic, instead rinse your mouth with water and wait 60 minutes before brushing. Acidic food and drink soften the enamel layer of the tooth so brushing straight after eating or drinking acidic foods will be abrasive to your teeth.

While there are many common causes of sensitivity, some tooth sensitivity can be caused by serious dental issues, such as tooth decay, broken fillings, a cracked tooth or root canal problems.

Speaking with your dentist, or oral health therapist, is the first step to diagnosing the underlying causes of your tooth sensitivity. The more information you can provide about your symptoms, such as when it started, triggers such as hot or cold and how long the sensitivity lasts will all help your dental professional determine the cause and formulate a treatment plan to combat your sensitivity.

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