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Posted on: December 3, 2021
Understanding Sensitive Teeth
Did you ever take a drink of an ice-cold lemonade on a hot day and wish you had waited? When you have sensitive teeth, any food or drink that is almost boiling hot or cold will cause a sharp jolt of pain. You have to wait until your food or drink is tepid. Pain usually lasts until the tooth settles back to its normal temperature. Acidic and sweet foods can also trigger pain. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where you could eat all the foods you wanted without worrying about tooth sensitivity? Well, there is good news. You can! Tooth sensitivity is not permanent. However, it helps to understand how it starts in order to stop it from occurring.
Worn tooth enamel or exposed roots are usually the root causes of sensitive teeth are a common product of worn tooth enamel or an exposed tooth root. Enamel is a very hard substance which protects the crown of a tooth. Underneath the enamel is the dentin. Dentin contains tubules, or microscopic channels, that connect to the pulp. The pulp contains the tooth’s nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. The roots don’t have enamel over them, so when they are exposed, you will feel pain from hot and cold substances.
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, one in eight U.S. adults has sensitive teeth. While over-sensitive teeth are a common problem, there is no reason to suffer. Your dentist can determine why your teeth are sensitive and help you find a solution.
What Are the Root Causes of Tooth Decay?
- Having an aggressive oral care routine can wear down your tooth enamel. Brushing very hard with a hard toothbrush will not help your teeth. Brush with a soft toothbrush and hold the brush at a 14-degree angle.
- Untreated cavities that have reached the dentin will cause sensitivity. This may be the first symptom you notice, so it’s important to have regular dental checkups to catch cavities early. The sensitivity is a warning sign you shouldn’t ignore.
- Cracked teeth can also expose the dentin and cause sensitivity. You can have a hairline fracture you can’t even see, especially if you chew ice or hard candy or grind your teeth while you sleep.
- Cracked or worn fillings can also expose the dentin. If you have an old filling or you do things that can crack a filling, like chewing ice, you may have sensitive teeth. Fillings usually last 10 to 15 years, with metal fillings lasting longing than than composite resin fillings.
- Grinding your teeth while you sleep, also called bruxism, can erode tooth enamel, exposing the dentin. It can also crack fillings or wear them down. Some people are not aware they have bruxism, which is why it is important to have regular dental exams. Dentists can easily notice the signs.
- Consuming excessive amounts of acidic foods and drinks can harm your tooth enamel. Foods and beverages with a high acid content include:
citrus fruits and juices
soft drink and sports drinks
most carbonated drinks
- Receding gums that expose the roots will cause teeth sensitivity as roots don’t have a protective covering of enamel.
- Genetics can play a role in your enamel’s strength or weakness. You can compensate for this with good dental care and fluoride treatments from your dentist.
- Tooth-whitening toothpastes can wear down enamel if they are abrasive. Low quality products can also erode enamel. If you’re not getting the results you want, ask your dentist about a professional whiting treatment. You’ll get far better results and it is safe.
- Over-the-counter mouthwashes that contain alcohol can cause sensitivity. Switch to a neutral brand containing fluoride or skip mouthwash altogether.
What Can I Do to Reduce or Avoid Tooth Sensitivity?
First, the best way to get rid of tooth sensitivity is to prevent it in the first place. If you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, try improving your oral care routine. Use a soft toothbrush and hold it at 45-degree angle. Brush for two minutes, brushing all sides of each tooth. Always use a soft toothbrush and a fluoride toothpaste. Also, make sure to floss every day. Flossing is most often left out of an oral health care routine, but it’s vitally important.
Second, try a desensitizing toothpaste. These work by blocking stimulus to the nerve and they may take a few days to produce results. To ensure effectiveness and safety, use one with the American Dental Association’s Seal of Acceptance. These don’t address the root cause of sensitivity though, they just stop the twinges of pain. However, this can help provide relief before you go to the dentist.
Third, start eating foods that will rebuild your tooth enamel. These include foods and beverages with calcium, phosphorus and vitamins A and D. If you consume acidic beverages, use a straw. If this isn’t possible, rinse afterward with water or milk, but don’t brush for an hour or so. You will also want to try to avoid foods that cause enamel to erode more quickly, such as highly acidic foods.
See your dentist for regular exams. They can alert you to any issues, like cavities or failed dental fillings before they become a problem. You dentist is your best resource for preventing and fixing dental problems. When you meet with them regularly, you can avoid paying expensive fees and having invasive procedures to fix complex problems.
What Can Dentists Do to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity?
Depending on the reason for your sensitivity, your dentist can:
- Apply a professional fluoride treatment to rebuild enamel
- Suggest products that won’t harm your teeth further
- Fill cavities
- Repair failed fillings
- Fix fractured teeth
- Treat gum disease and seal roots or perform a gum graft
- Create a custom night guard to minimize damage from teeth clenching
- and grinding
To find a solution to your tooth sensitivity, make an appointment with a local dentist. You shouldn’t have to limit yourself to tepid foods and drinks when most sensitive teeth treatments are simple and affordable.