Dental Tribune USA

Patients who have sensitive teeth may be brushing too hard, AGD says

By Fred Michmershuizen, DTA
November 05, 2009

NEW YORK, NY, USA: Do you have patients who complain about sensitive teeth, sharp pains or discomfort triggered by hot or cold? The culprit, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, might be in their very own hands.

According to a nationwide member survey conducted by the AGD, based in Chicago, IL, USA, one in three dentists say that aggressive toothbrushing is the most common cause of sensitive teeth. Acidic food and beverage consumption was found to be the No. 2 cause.

As the AGD pointed out in a news release announcing the survey results, dentin hypersensitivity is a common oral condition affecting approximately 40 million Americans of all ages. It is characterized by discomfort or sharp and sudden pain in one or more teeth and is often triggered by hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and drinks, pressure on the tooth, or even breathing cold air.

Van B. Haywood, DMD, said that aggressive toothbrushing and consuming acidic foods and beverages can lead to tooth sensitivity. This is because over time, they can wear down the enamel on your teeth and even your gums.

“When the protective layer of enamel erodes or gum lines recede, a softer tissue in your teeth called dentin can be left exposed,” Dr Haywood said. “Dentin connects to the tooth’s inner nerve center, so when it is unprotected, the nerve center can be left unshielded and vulnerable to sensations, including pain.”

The survey also found that several other factors, in addition to aggressive toothbrushing and acidic foods and beverages, can cause tooth erosion and contribute to the oral condition. These factors include certain toothpastes and mouthwashes, tooth whitening products, broken or cracked teeth, bulimia and acid reflux.

Out of the nearly 700 general dentists who responded to the survey, nearly 60 per cent said that the frequency of tooth erosion has increased compared to five years ago.

“Being able to detect tooth erosion in its early stages is perhaps the most important key to preventing dentin hypersensitivity,” said Raymond K. Martin, DDS, MAGD. “Discoloration, transparency, and small dents or cracks in the teeth are all signs of tooth erosion and should be discussed with your dentist as soon as possible.”

Fifty-six percent of dentists surveyed say that patients manage tooth sensitivity by avoiding cold foods and beverages, while 17 per cent said that patients avoid brushing the sensitive area of the mouth.

“While these may seem like the quickest and easiest ways to prevent sensitivity, none of them will actually solve the problem,” said Gigi Meinecke, DMD, FAGD.

For those who are already affected by sensitive teeth, the AGD recommends patients adhere to the following actions to help alleviate symptoms:

1. Switch to a desensitizing toothpaste.
There are many brands of toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth.

2. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush.
When a patient uses a hard-bristled toothbrush, he or she may be wearing away the enamel on their teeth or causing their gums to recede.

3. Practice good oral hygiene.
A patient should floss regularly and brush at least twice a day for two to three minutes. He or she should hold the toothbrush at 45-degree angle, brush gently in a circular motion, and hold the toothbrush in the fingertips rather than in the palm of the hand.

4. Avoid highly acidic foods and beverages.
A patient should make a conscious effort to limit his or her intake of highly acidic foods and beverages every day.

 

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