Why do patients stay silent about dentine hypersensitivity?

woman suffering with dentine hypersensitivityJudith Husband explores the possible reasons patients remain silent about dentine hypersensitivity and how we can overcome this.

In general practice we frequently have patients suffering from sensitive teeth due to temperature changes, particularly cold temperatures. Drinks or food and occasionally even merely breathing in can cause this.

For patients who experience tooth decay and fractured teeth, they may associate these symptoms with a significant pathology. This can deter them from sharing these symptoms with us during a routine examination or virtual consultation.

Many of us will experience the situation where a patient only mentions symptoms, especially sensitivity, on completing the examination visit. And occasionally even as they are popping on their coats.

Diagnosing dentine hypersensitivity

With our new ways of working across the profession, it is essential we make every contact with our patients count. Whether that is a traditional face-to-face visit, remotely on the telephone or virtual consultation platforms.

With over two decades experience in general practice, I have built up a regular routine for face-to-face examinations and treatment with all my patients.

Revisiting and checking the medical history is always my opening into the formal discussion. I follow this with a specific enquiry into their recent oral health experiences.

Sensitivity is a central question around which it’s possible to explore many different symptoms and concerns.

With experience it has become clear to me that many patients, even those we frequently see and care for over long periods of time, will not necessarily mention tooth sensitivity.

With most of us suffering from dentine hypersensitivity or more generalised sensitive teeth, it is reassuring for patients when we take that little extra time and just explore all concerns in more detail.

This has proven even more important during remote consultations in my experience. It is possible we will have times when maintaining our ongoing relationships with patients will rely on remote consultations.

Managing sensitivity

Private, plan and NHS patients will all value our concern, and the ability to support them to improve their own oral health.

Maintaining our professional relationships with patients during the challenging months ahead is paramount for our practices to survive.

All clinicians know there are a multitude of causes resulting in transient sensitivity. For my patients exhibiting localised hypersensitivity, I frequently advise regular topical sensitive toothpaste application.

Simply massage the toothpaste onto the sensitive tooth, or region, for a minute on a regular basis. This can act as a useful diagnostic tool, whilst often even resolving the problem.

Many patients are very well informed and will frequently ask about the latest toothpaste or toothbrush.

It’s always worth keeping informed with a regular review of the local supermarket oral health offerings, popular social media trends and with more formal dental professional focused evidence and resources.


Find out more about dentine hypersensitivity by visiting Colgate’s resource page at colgate.dentistry.co.uk.

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