Sensitive Gums Vs. Sensitive Teeth

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When it comes to your mouth, two of the main components are the gums and teeth. It's important to keep them healthy otherwise you risk discomfort or pain. Sometimes it is difficult to determine where the discomfort is coming from. Here are some differences between gum and tooth sensitivity and some ways to alleviate the pain.

Gum Sensitivity

Gum sensitivity is exactly what it sounds like – some form of irritation originating from the gums. If you think your gums are sensitive, look for some very specific symptoms to be sure: Gum sensitivity can result from gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease or from local irritation such as food impaction. Some of the signs of gingivitis are bleeding gums, especially when brushing or eating and a redness or swelling of the gum, according to Better Health Victoria site. Gum sensitivity resulting from gingivitis is typically caused by poor oral hygiene. Plaque builds up along the gumline and, if not removed, can cause inflammation of the gums which, in some cases, can progress to more advanced gum disease.

Tooth Sensitivity

If you have tooth sensitivity you may find yourself wincing when brushing or flossing certain teeth, or when eating or drinking something cold, hot, acidic or sweet.

Under normal conditions, the underlying dentine of the tooth (the layer that immediately surrounds the nerves and soft tissue of the tooth pulp) is covered by the enamel in the tooth crown, and the gums that surround the tooth. Over time, the enamel covering the dentine can wear away and the gums can recede, thus providing less protection. The dentine contains a large number of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the pulp in the centre. When the dentine is exposed, these tubes can be stimulated by changes in temperature or certain foods to cause sensitivity pain.

Treatment and Prevention

Though both gum and tooth sensitivity can lead to or indicate serious mouth health issues, each is very treatable and preventable. The best way to avoid sensitive gums, sensitive teeth and any issues stemming from either is by practicing and maintaining good oral health. This starts with brushing thoroughly twice a day, flossing daily and maintaining a nutritious diet also aid in keeping your gums healthy.

See your dental practitioner to find out what is causing your sensitivity and they will recommend the best treatment and prevention options for you.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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TOOTH SENSITIVITY

Definition

Tooth sensitivity — also known as dentine hypersensitivity — affects the tooth via exposed root surfaces. This occurs when the enamel that protects the teeth wears away, or when gum recession occurs, exposing the underlying surface, the dentine, thus, reducing the protection the enamel and gums provide to the tooth and root.

Signs & Symptoms

If hot, cold, sweet or very acidic foods and drinks, breathing in cold air, or touching the affected surface makes your teeth or a tooth sensitive, then you may have dentine hypersensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can come and go over time.

Cause

There are many causes of tooth sensitivity, including:

  • Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or brushing too aggressively

  • Tooth erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages

  • Tooth erosion due to bulimia or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GORD)

  • Gum recession that leaves your root surface exposed

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