Have you experienced a sharp pain from your tooth when you drink a glass of cold water or your favourite frizzy drink? The pain usually subsides after a period of time, but will return whenever you drink cold water. If this scenario sounds familiar, chances are that you may have dentine hypersensitivity or sensitive teeth.

Quick Facts

A telephone survey by GlaxoSmithKline in 2010 found that:

  • Almost half of 1000 Singaporeans surveyed between the age of 15 and 64 experienced tooth sensitivity
  • About a third of the sufferers were “latent sufferers” which means that they were unaware they had the condition

Dr Ho Kok Sen, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Specialist Dental Group, estimates that about 3-4 patients in every 10 patients seen at the clinic seek help for the condition.

Symptoms of sensitive teeth

  • Discomfort or short and sharp pain in the teeth when exposed to stimuli such as hot, cold, sweet or sour food and drinks
  • Touching the teeth with one’s tongue can trigger pain

Causes of dentine hypersensitivity

  • Over-zealous brushing of teeth
  • Absence of good oral hygiene
  • Loss of the tooth’s protective enamel coating above the gum line
  • Erosion of the gum and bone-like material covering the roots of the teeth
  • Frequent consumption of acidic drinks, such as soft drinks, fruit juice, wine, coffee and tea which can erode the enamel
  • Bruxism, which is the clenching or grinding of one’s teeth

Tips on Managing Sensitive Teeth

  • Drink fizzy soft drinks or citrus fruit juices using a straw or swallow quickly to minimize the exposure of the teeth to acid
  • Rinse the mouth after eating acidic food
  • One should wait about one hour after consuming an acidic drink or meal before brushing their teeth
  • Use a soft bristled brush to move plaque or debris without excessively wearing the enamel and causing abrasion of the gums
  • Use toothpastes and other oral care products targeted at sensitive teeth sufferers

Dr Elvin Leong, a prosthodontist at Specialist Dental Group, also advised that gentle strokes when brushing your teeth should be employed to reduce the wear on the teeth. One should use toothpaste with protective ingredients, such as fluoride, which strengthens the enamel and prevents tooth decay.

Regular visits to the dentists also ensure that tooth sensitivity can be prevented or diagnosed early, as enamel cannot grow back on its own and restorative treatment can be expensive. Prevention is always better than treatment.

Teeth sensitivity is rather common and most people tend to leave the issue alone when the pain does not bother them too much. On the other hand, Dr Ho cautions that tooth sensitivity is a clinical symptom that may indicate a more troublesome dental condition such as tooth decay, cracked fillings or fractured teeth.

The key for treating sensitive teeth is to determine what the source of sensitivity is – during the consultation, our dentists will try to determine the type of sensitivity the person experiences and from the responses, address the situation and find a resolution to the problem.

If you would like to make an appointment to consult one of our specialists on a tooth sensitivity problem, visit our website for an online appointment booking request.

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