It can be difficult to distinguish between sensitive teeth and sensitive gums but it’s important to learn what is causing the discomfort and then how to treat it. Both can cause pain and discomfort but require different treatments. Here we have summarised the differences between gum and tooth sensitivity, their causes, and treatment options.
Gum sensitivity is an irritation that starts in your gums. When we feel that type of pain, we tend to assume it’s tooth sensitivity.
However, with gum sensitivity, there are some different symptoms to look out for. Gum inflammation and gingivitis can be the source of the sensitivity.
Some signs of gingivitis are:
- Red and swollen gums
- Gums that bleed easily
- Bad breath
Receding gums tends to follow gingivitis if nothing is done to slow its spread. Gum recession causes discomfort in itself. Gum sensitivity resulting from gingivitis is usually caused by inadequate oral hygiene i.e. not brushing enough or well enough. A build-up of plaque leads to uncomfortable sensitivity. As it forms along the gumline, the plaque hardens and turns into tartar, which eventually progresses into advanced gum disease if left untreated. Although poor oral hygiene is the main cause of gum sensitivity, there are other pre-existing risk factors for the condition: diabetes, pregnancy, poor diet, tobacco use, genetic factors and obesity.
Tooth sensitivity, on the other hand, is more common and has different symptoms. If you find that you wince in pain sometimes when eating or drinking something very cold or very hot, when brushing or flossing your teeth, then you have experienced tooth, rather than gum sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity causes include:
- Brushing too hard
- Grinding your teeth – especially at night
- Cavities and tooth fractures
- Receding gums
- Gum disease
- Loose fillings
Anything on the list reduces dentin, the inner layer of our teeth, and causes it to become exposed. Exposed dentin is the main source of experiencing tooth sensitivity.
Treatment and Prevention
The key to both gum and tooth sensitivity prevention is the same, practising an excellent oral hygiene routine.
This involves brushing your teeth twice a day and cleaning between your teeth with floss, once a day, will get the hard-to-reach bacteria that turn into plaque.
Make sure you maintain a balanced and nutritious diet and be sure to avoid any tobacco products. If you have been given a mouthguard to help you stop grinding your teeth, make sure you wear it regularly.
By regularly seeing your dentist and/or hygienist for regular check-ups and maintaining an excellent oral hygiene routine at home in between visits, you are doing everything you can to avoid both tooth and gum sensitivity. Any measures you can take to make your lifestyle healthier will also benefit your teeth and gums. If you have any questions about sensitivity and are still unsure as to which you are suffering from or how best to treat it, please make sure that you make an appointment to speak to your dentist.