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Most of us have experienced a brief shooting pain from teeth that have been exposed to an extra large dollop of ice cream or a cold drink on a hot day. But some people find that they experience pain from quite minor changes in temperature, or to sweet or acid things.
Every healthy tooth has a nerve at its centre and several things can make it more susceptible to stimulation. A hole in the tooth can allow irritants to reach the nerve if the hole is too deep the nerve can become infected and “dies”. This can be painless, but often the process is accompanied by increasing sensitivity of the tooth until in the end it just hurts all the time. Obviously, the treatment for this is to have the hole fixed.
Less easily cured is tenderness at the neck of the tooth. The protective enamel crown of a tooth only goes down to gum level, so, if the gum recedes or the neck is worn away, sensitive dentine can be exposed. Make sure you brush this area up and down and not backwards and forwards to prevent further wear. Several brands of toothpaste “for sensitive teeth” can help to seal this area, try them to see if they work for you. Fluoride also helps so after you’ve brushed your teeth; smear a little fluoride toothpaste over the sore area using your finger.
Sometimes teeth become sensitive without apparent cause. This is often attributed to a previous knock that has irritated the nerve over a long period. Other causes are leaking fillings and cracked cusps, which can be difficult to diagnose.
In severe cases there are some potions that can be applied by the dentist, and, as a last resort, it may be necessary to remove the tooth’s nerve and “root fill” the tooth.
Dental disease can be prevented by avoiding sweet food and drink between meals, and by brushing your teeth really well with a fluoride toothpaste the last thing at night.