Is the taste of ice cream or a sip of a hot drink sometimes a painful experience for your child? Does tooth brushing or flossing make them wince occasionally? If so, your child may have sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity occurs when the layer of a tooth underneath the enamel (called the dentin) or the layer covering the root (called cementum) is exposed along the gum line due to receding gums. The exposed areas respond to hot and cold, and sometimes too sweet and spicy foods, and trigger pain.
Why does my child have tooth sensitivity?
Possible causes of tooth sensitivity:
Tooth decay (cavities) Fractured teeth Worn down fillings Exposed root surfaces of the teeth Worn or “weak” (porous) tooth enamel
How can I manage my child’s tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is not something your child should have to deal with, and in some instances can be painful. The best way to prevent tooth sensitivity is to firstly ensure your child has a good oral hygiene routine at home. This includes a fluoridated toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush. A soft toothbrush will help prevent gum loss and will also avoid enamel wear. It is also best to avoid acidic and sweet drinks as this can also damage the outer layers of teeth.
Ignoring sensitive teeth can lead to other oral health problems, especially if the pain causes your child to brush poorly making them vulnerable to tooth decay and gum disease.
It is best to consult with a dental professional before using any desensitizing product for your child, especially if your child is under the age of 12. If it turns out that the smell or taste of the current toothpaste your child uses is causing discomfort, switch to a mildly flavored (or unflavored) variety which might be your best option. If you are unable to do this, use a clean washcloth or piece of gauze to gently wipe your child’s teeth and gums until you can visit your dental professional for an appointment.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2019). Oral health and dental care in Australia. Canberra: AIHW. Retrieved 26 July 2019 from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia/contents/introduction.