SENSE AND SENSITIVITY
What to do about sensitive teeth and gums
By Angelo V. Fernandez DMD, FICD
Everyone has experienced the sheer torture of not being able to enjoy a sumptuous meal or an ice-cold refreshing drink due to twinges of pain and discomfort in teeth and gums. To prevent this experience from depriving us of our next gastronomic indulgence, it is important to understand what causes the sensitivity.
Exposing the tooth
Teeth become sensitive when their inner layer, called dentin, is exposed. Dentin is composed of several tubules or openings with nerve branches that lead to the nerve center of the tooth called the pulp. In healthy teeth, dentin is protected by an enamel layer. Tooth sensitivity occurs when this enamel gets stripped due to several reasons:
• tooth decay;
• aggressive tooth brushing with hard bristles;
• cracked tooth filling; and
• tartar build up as a result of poor oral hygiene.
In severe cases wherein bigger tooth structures are damaged, the pulp is then exposed, causing even more sensitivity and even pain.
Redness, swelling, bleeding, pain, sores and ulcers are symptoms of gum sensitivity. The discomfort and pain may be felt in a small part of the gum or the whole gumline, depending on the cause.
Sometimes, simple gum sores are confused with or dismissed as simple tooth problems, like having food particles wedged between the teeth and the gumline, or a fork-pricked gum area. Do remember that when gum pain is felt in a larger area of the gumline, gum disease must be seriously considered.
Prevent the pain
As with all oral health concerns, proper oral hygiene is the key to prevention:
• Eat a well-balanced diet. Keep away from sweets. Choose high calcium foods, too.
• Use mouthwash and toothpaste with fluoride.
• Brush, floss and chew dental health gum.
• Visit your dentist twice a year. Regular professional teeth cleaning is a must.
Remember, sensitive teeth and gums may be early signs of more serious oral health concerns. To avoid grave dental problems like tooth loss and advanced gum disease, see your dentist regularly.