What is dentine hypersensitivity?

hypersensitivityWondering what dentine hypersensitivity is? Aisha Memon explains.

Dentine hypersensitivity is a common condition that today’s adult population complain of when attending the dentist and is something that can dramatically impact a person’s quality of life.

What is it?

It is the term associated with a short sharp pain that arises from exposed dentine. This is usually in response to some form of stimuli. The main differential factor is that the pain cannot be ascribed to any other pathology.

The classical presentation

A new patient attends your practice and complains of minor pain and sensitive teeth. On further questioning the patient describes the pain as short and sharp on the consumption of hot and cold foods. When the stimulus is removed, the pain disappears.

You diagnose this as a classical presentation of dentine hypersensitivity as further to the patients’ symptoms; examination and investigation shows no other sources that could be causing the pain.

The two main causes and what you can do to help

Over vigorous tooth brushing:

  1. Discuss oral hygiene with the patient in detail and help them correct their tooth brushing technique
  2. Try to use aids such as models and videos as this can enhance the learning experience.

Acid exposure:

  1. Discuss the patient’s diet and medical history with them in detail to try and find out what form of acid exposure the patient is facing
  2. If there is evidence of erosion discuss the impact of intrinsic (such as acid reflux or vomiting) and extrinsic factors (such as acidic foods and drinks) on their dentition
  3. If their medical history is found to be the possible cause, refer them to their GP for further investigation
  4. Advise them to avoid brushing for at least one hour after acid exposure.

An effective and correct diagnosis is key to the success of treatment. Dentine hypersensitivity is something that dentists will come across extremely often in practice and therefore learning how to manage and treat it is essential.

Methods used to treat dentine hypersensitivity

  1. Desensitising toothpastes: this is a great first line tool, encourage patients to start using this immediately
  2. Topical desensitisers: such as Gluma desensitiser can be applied to the localised areas causing sensitivity such as the cervical areas that do not need a restoration
  3. Restorations: glass ionomer cements or composite resins are often used especially for deeper lesions, where a restoration is required
  4. Fluoride varnish: Duraphat varnish (22,600ppm sodium fluoride) can be applied to the affected surfaces.

This article first appeared in an issue of Young Dentist magazine.

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