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The most common cause of tooth sensitivity is gum recession (gingival recession). Gum recession resulting in sensitivity is in turn caused by brushing the teeth too hard or using a hard toothbrush.

Tooth sensitivity can also be due to 

  • damage to tooth enamel,
  • a dental cavity or pre-cavity,
  • opening of the junction between a filling and a tooth, 
  • a cracked tooth, 
  • strain due to dental occlusion, or 
  • tooth erosion (chemical dissolution).

Self-care

A good brushing technique prevents gum recession and prevents formation of acidic dental plaque. Use a soft toothbrush or electric toothbrush for brushing your teeth. 

Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste every morning and evening. Toothpastes intended for sensitive teeth may also ease symptoms if used regularly.

The use of fluoride lozenges or fluoride mouthwash strengthens the tooth surface and in this way reduces tooth sensitivity. 

Avoid brushing your teeth immediately after eating. Instead, you can rinse your mouth with water and use xylitol-containing chewing gum or pastille to prevent acid attack caused by plaque bacteria following eating. 

Avoid acidic foods and drinks. These low-pH foods and drinks include soft drinks, low-calorie drinks, sports and energy drinks, juices (such as whole juices made from orange or apple), berry juices, citrus fruit juices and vinegar-containing foods.

When should you seek treatment?

If tooth sensitivity persists and disrupts your life, contact your FSHS service unit to book an appointment for an examination.

Treatment

If necessary, teeth that are sensitive due to gum recession can be treated with fluoride products and/or products preventing tooth sensitivity. However, the most important thing is to check your brushing technique.

If tooth sensitivity is due to a dental cavity or pre-cavity, an assessment will be made to see whether cavity formation can be halted or whether a filling is needed. If the cavity formation can be halted, the teeth need to be cleaned more effectively and fluoride used more often than usual.

Strain due to dental occlusion and the reasons for it will be assessed during an oral examination. Treatment procedures such as relaxation of occlusion muscles, stress management or using a dental guard will be determined as appropriate.

If there is a crack (microfracture) or a chip on the tooth surface, a composite plastic filling may be required. 

Information sources:

The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Terveysportti, Lääkärin tietokanta database

FSHS Dentist / 08 October 2019

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