Protecting Against Tooth Sensitivity

How to protect against the discomfort of sensitive teeth, plus treatment for those who already have them.

Wickford Principal Dentist Dr PabariWhen we think about painful teeth, we probably mostly think about tooth decay and the toothache often associated with it. Without a doubt, this can be excruciatingly painful but it is generally short lived as most patients will contact the Cygnet Dental Practice to have it treated, whether through a filling or in some cases where the tooth cannot be saved, extraction.

For one group of people though, a more persistent tooth pain is common and that is in those with sensitive teeth.

Tooth sensitivity varies in degrees as to how painful it is. For some, it is a relatively light discomfort where they are simply more aware when they eat or drink something very hot or cold. For others though, the same experience can produce sharp pains that cause them to wince in pain. Although this isn’t the persistent pain of a toothache, it can be very painful indeed and many people will avoid extremes of temperatures to avoid it. Even those with relatively minor discomfort with this problem should probably take that as a warning sign of worse to come.

Healthy tooth enamel

So why do some people have sensitive teeth whilst others don’t? The answer lies in the enamel on the teeth. People with healthy enamel are more resistant to pain caused in this way as it protects the underlying layers from the heat and cold. The problem arises when the enamel has either been damaged, perhaps through a crack or a chip, or equally often, eroded, causing it to become thinner.

The key to avoiding sensitivity is to look after the enamel on your teeth. This obviously means making sure that you brush, floss and see your dentist and hygienist at our Wickford dental clinic on a regular and ongoing basis. In between these appointments, there are some things that you can do, other than brushing and flossing, to help keep your tooth enamel healthy.

  1. When you brush your teeth, make sure that you don’t apply too much pressure. A gentle circular motion is all that is needed. The problem with putting too much pressure on is that this will gradually wear away the enamel causing it to thin. Some electric toothbrushes now have pressure sensors that allow them to cut out if too much pressure is applied. This could prove to be a good investment.
  2. The second thing is to be careful about what you eat and drink. A diet high in acidic foods will gradually erode the dental enamel. These can even be healthy foods such as citric fruits but include a wide range of food and drinks. The following are some of the ones to avoid or at least limit your intake of:
  • Acidic fruits and even some vegetables such as tomatoes. Eat these in moderation
  • Sweets and even dried fruits as these contain high levels of sugars and are prone to stick to the teeth for a long period of time
  • Wine, whether red or white is quite acidic and potentially damaging to your teeth
  • Soft drinks, and especially those labelled as ‘sports drinks’. These are highly acidic and are perhaps one of the worst culprits when it comes to enamel erosion

There can be other factors such as medication and eating disorders. The latter causes the teeth to come into contact with stomach acid where vomiting is common, This is quite a strong acid and many people with bulimia especially, often have poor teeth as well.

Easing tooth sensitivity

What can you do if you already have sensitive teeth? You can certainly avoid eating and drinking food and drinks that are at either end of the heat spectrum, waiting for them to cool down or warm up so that you can consume them comfortably. There are also toothpastes available which help to reduce the sensitivity and these can be useful, especially in relatively mild cases.

Ultimately though, once the enamel has gone, it has gone, and only restoring your teeth will deal with this problem in the longer run.


Where a tooth has cracked or chipped, there are a number of treatments that might be used depending on the circumstances. These include fillings, crowns, veneers or bonding. For general enamel wear though, dental veneers are likely to produce the best results.

Dental veneers are a very fine layer of porcelain which are used to replace the role of the natural tooth enamel. Traditionally, you will have a fine layer of the damaged enamel removed from the front of your teeth although some modern veneers avoid the need for this in some situations. Impressions are then taken and sent to a laboratory where your new veneers are made. These will then be attached to the front of your teeth with a strong adhesive and shaped and polished so that they not only protect your teeth but leave them looking natural too.

Veneers generally last around ten years if you look after them correctly and, by having them fitted, our Cygnet Dental team can enable you to eat and drink whatever you want without the discomfort that you have probably known for a long time.

If you have sensitive teeth and would like to find out more about how we can help you, please call our Wickford dental practice on 01268 733078.