Tooth wear – a sensitive subject

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By Professor Andrew Eder

Summer is here at last and despite the idiosyncrasies of British weather (or perhaps because of it) there will be hot days where the clink of ice in a glass, as well as the odd ice lolly or ice cream will offer blessed relief from the heat. 

For some, however, tooth sensitivity puts the happy idea of these things in the shade. In fact, figures suggest that almost 70% of the population will experience the pain of tooth sensitivity at some point, and over 90% of sufferers think it is a normal part of everyday life.

Simply, this is not true. Yes, you may be able to alleviate the symptoms by using a specially formulated toothpaste – many of them are effective – and think you have sorted the problem. However, if you self-diagnose and treat you are simply masking the underlying issue. Depending on the cause, it may well get worse and, if left untreated, may get to the point where extensive and expensive restorative treatment is the only solution left to you.

It is therefore very important to let your dentist know if you are suffering from tooth sensitivity. One possible trigger that is growing in prevalence in the UK is that of tooth surface loss. This is when the outer surfaces of the tooth wear away, exposing the softer under-layer, which is connected to nerves that signal pain. 

Amongst the biggest culprits of such damage to the teeth over the long term are physical damage as a result of, for example, brushing too hard or grinding of the teeth, which is often linked to stress.  Also on the list are acidic foods and drinks (including fruits, salad dressings, pickles, soft drinks and alcohol – all popular summer fare), especially when consumed frequently and in-between meals. Reflux issues may also contribute to tooth wear and result in sensitivity.

The good news is that there are some simple steps that can help to prevent further damage to the teeth, as well as, in some cases, reverse any harm already done. These include:

• Drinking still water or low-fat milk between meals

• Limiting fruit juice to once per day and avoiding fizzy drinks

• Rinsing the mouth with water for 15 to 30 seconds after consuming acidic foods or drinks 

• Chewing sugar-free gum or eating a piece of cheese after consuming acidic food or drinks

• Waiting at least an hour to brush teeth after consuming any acidic foods or drinks

• Using a toothpaste that contains fluoride and a non-abrasive toothbrush

• Using a fluoridated mouthwash every day at a different time to tooth brushing, as well as before or after comsuming acidic foods and drinks.

In addition, if you experience earaches and headaches, facial pain, a sore jaw and/or tooth sensitivity, you may be a night-time tooth grinder. If so, doing something relaxing before bed such as yoga, reading or having a bath may help.

If you are suffering from tooth sensitivity or are worried about tooth wear, tell your dentist. Alternatively, The London Tooth Wear Centre® offers an expert and caring approach to managing tooth wear. 

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