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Chances are we have all been there and all suffered this at some point and research shows that it is actually quite a common dental problem with thousands suffering and the normal onset age for this condition seems to be 20 to 50 years old, although the peak period seems to be for those in their thirties – indicating that although anyone can have it, it tends to be younger people which experience it (perhaps contrary to belief.) The medical term for tooth / teeth sensitivity is called dentin hypersensitivity.
The answer to the question ‘what is it’ is simply you will know if you have it! Try eating ice cream or having a hot drink or possibly something bitter. Do you get a sharp uncomfortable pain? This is likely to be tooth sensitivity. Despite the pain, tooth sensitivity is generally not a serious problem, even if it often proves an irritation for many people. We use the word ‘generally’ because on some occasions persistent, or severe tooth sensitivity can be a symptom of another underlying problem, so it is best to mention if you have this issue and your dentist do the diagnosing for you!
Sensitive teeth and the pain associated are caused by teeth enamel which has worn away or possible receding gums. A diet heavy in acidic foods, brushing teeth regularly hard so as to remove enamel are also other possible factors. Once wear happens, the dentin (essentially the root of the tooth) becomes exposed, and this allows for the pain signals to be carried along nerve endings.
Whilst the above factors play a significant role in bringing about tooth sensitivity, the actual agreed onset reason is not fully understood or accepted in the medical world. For example, some would argue that changes in composition of the teeth can cause it, while others would disagree.
As indicated above, since the problem isn’t often serious then self-management is normally the key to the problem.
Remember that while sensitive teeth are a nuisance, they can generally be managed well with sometimes the smallest of changes. You may also find the problem comes and goes and you experience long periods of time where it simply isn’t an issue.
While on our website, visit our general dentistry section where you can learn about other common problems that people have with their teeth.