One of the most frequent complaints from patients we get in our dental practice, is of tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity may arise from many different reasons. For example:
- Erosion ridden teeth
- Gingival recession
- Exposed dentinal tubules
- Tooth decay
- Worn out enamel
Dental erosion, in simple terms, is the dissolution of tooth structures due to a high acidic environment in the oral cavity. Usually caused by two things, either a high intake of carbonated/fizzy drinks, constant exposure to acidic food, or frequent expulsion of vomit (usually due to bulimia or GERD).
Due to the high acidity of fizzy drinks, carbonated water and vomitus (stomach acid), the tooth surfaces can dissolve if exposed to high frequency and long periods of the substance. And once the first layer (enamel) of the tooth surface dissolves, dentine is exposed. When dentine is exposed, the dentinal tubules are exposed to the environment and are very sensitive to air, water and other substances.
The patterns of the dissolution of the teeth are very standard and can be easily identified by dental surgeons. Thus, to solve this issue of sensitivity, it requires both the patient and the dental surgeon to play a role.
Once the cause of the dental erosion is identified and resolved, then only would the treatment of the teeth be beneficial. One of the first things we do, is educate. Oral care education may be the most important part of the whole treatment, as it makes the patient understand that prevention and cure starts from the patient themselves.
As dental surgeons, we will advise the patient to seek help from their physician regarding their bulimia or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder) which would be the root cause of the their dental erosion issue.
If the patient is not suffering from both the diseases mentioned above, then the cause would usually be due to the introduction of high acidic food/drinks. This can be from either frequent consumption of fizzy/carbonated drinks or food, a lemon-sucking habit, or a reduced water intake. This again requires the patient to seek advice from a nutritionist and reduce the amount of acidic food/drinks in their diet.
After prior education has been given, usually to treat the symptoms of sensitivity, a special sensitivity toothpaste is issued, a simple restoration is done or in more severe cases, the patient may require crowns.
Managing dental erosions on our side is pretty straight forward, though it is our duty to ensure patients understand the root cause of their problems and how to prevent them.
Hopefully this article sheds some light for everyone!