We all have experienced sensitivity at some point. It can be very annoying if you enjoy a cold drink or ice-cream.
What causes sensitivity?
Every tooth has what is called dentinal tubules. Little tiny tubes run from the outer surface of the tooth all the way to the dental pulp where there is a nerve. These tubes are filled with fluid. When there is an imbalance of fluid, the nerve gets exposed; cold stimuli cause the nerve to send pain signals to the brain.
There are many reasons for the imbalance of fluid. Most common are tooth wear and gum recession.
How do I know it is just sensitivity and it’s not something I should be worried about?
Sensitivity is usually a short, sharp pain in response to a cold stimulus. The pain only last seconds and then it goes away. If you have pain when you drink something hot, eat something sweet or bite on your tooth, or if the pain lasts long then I recommend you see your dentist.
Which toothpaste should I use for sensitivity?
The two most common sensitivity toothpastes are Sensodyne and Colgate. Sensodyne has potassium nitrates which stop the nerve from sending pain signals to the brain but it takes 2-4 weeks to work. Colgate works by blocking the tubules instantly for quick pain relief. Both actually do the job if used twice a day, consistently.
Tips and advice
Brush your teeth before breakfast or at least 30 minutes after you have had breakfast.
Spit – do not rinse
If you brush your teeth too hard then use an electric toothbrush with a pressure sensor.
Rinse with a high fluoride mouthwash at least once a day.
In acute cases, rub some sensitive toothpaste on the affected teeth last thing at night after brushing them and leave on overnight. Brush as normal in the morning.
Do not stop using your sensitive toothpaste when the sensitivity goes away.
We’ve all been there….you walk into the shop or pharmacy to buy a new toothbrush and you find the shelves full of different styles, sizes and colours. “Which one is the right one for me?” Too confused, you end up leaving without buying one!
So what makes a good manual toothbrush?
A good toothbrush should have medium-to-soft, long, rounded, nylon bristles. A wide handle with a comfortable grip will make it easy to manoeuvre around and reach all the important spots in your mouth. You want the head to be a good proportion for your mouth; bigger if you have a big mouth, and smaller if you have a neat sized mouth.
Don’t be tempted to buy a hard toothbrush with the expectation that it will clean your teeth more thoroughly as they could actually cause tooth wear, and lead to sensitivity and even fillings. A medium toothbrush, used properly, will deliver the best results.
Some of my patients ask, “Which toothbrush can help to whiten my teeth?” My answer is, “None”! A toothbrush cannot make your teeth whiter. Manufacturers add plastic bristles only to polish your teeth and make them shinier by helping to reflect light.
My advice to everyone would be to buy a good quality, branded, medium toothbrush and use it twice a day, floss or use an interdental brush at least once a day and, of course, visit your dentist every six months for a check-up.
The average number of bacteria living on your toothbrush at any given time is about 10 million, include the harmful E.Coli and staphylococcus. The longer you keep your toothbrush, the more bacteria will accumulate and grow on it. Worse still, if you suffer from illness (bacterial or viral), the infectious organisms live on your toothbrush and can re-infect you.
After using a toothbrush twice a day for three months, the bristles soften and do not remove as much plaque as they should. This plaque build up will affect your gums and cause inflammation and bleeding (gingivitis) which could lead to severe problems for the gum and bone surrounding your teeth. In addition, bacteria in plaque releases acid which over time destroys the surface of your teeth and causes cavities to form.
Using a medium toothbrush with multi-length bristles will reach all areas, especially wisdom teeth, which could be angled or lower than the rest of your molars. You can use a soft toothbrush if you have orthodontic braces or have sensitive teeth. Once sensitivity resolves or the braces come off, you should go back to using a medium toothbrush.