Ask any ice cream lover: sensitive teeth can be a real drag. A number of things can exacerbate sensitive teeth, from food to brushing, so it can go from a minor annoyance to a big problem pretty quickly. Although desensitizing toothpastes can help ease the pain, you might wonder how to relieve sensitive teeth naturally and skip the pain next time. A couple of changes to your routine can rid you of that dental discomfort.
What Causes this Sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity is a common condition. It is experienced as a painful sensation in the teeth, often occurring after eating or drinking something hot, cold, sweet or acidic. In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains a large number of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the center. When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum and becomes exposed, these tubes allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede or from brushing with an abrasive toothpaste, brushing incorrectly or brushing more than three times a day which could result in a loss of enamel. Gum disease and genetics can also play a role in teeth sensitivity. The result can be hypersensitivity.
How Do I Fight Sensitivity?
Swap Your Toothbrush/Toothpaste
Brushing helps keep your teeth healthy, but using a hard-bristled toothbrush or highly abrasive toothpaste can aggravate sensitive teeth. Instead, swap out your usual toothbrush for a softer product and brush your teeth gently in a back and forth motion and across the biting surfaces of the teeth, rather than erratically. Hard brushing can actually wear away enamel, increasing the sensitivity of your teeth. If you have any recession of your gums or bone loss-and your tooth root is exposed as a result-then you’re also scrubbing at cementum. You don’t need to be harsh with your teeth; a little TLC can go a long way to reducing sensitivity. Purchasing desensitizing toothpaste is a good idea too. This contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve, and usually requires several applications before the sensitivity is reduced.
If the desensitizing toothpaste does not work, your dentist may suggest in-office treatments. A fluoride gel or special desensitizing agents may be applied to the sensitive areas of the affected teeth. When these measures do not correct the problem, your dentist may recommend other treatments such as a filling, a crown, an inlay or bonding to correct a flaw or decay. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity.
Avoid Acidic Foods
Exposure to red wine, soda, fruit juices and acidic foods such as oranges and pickles can put your enamel under constant attack and wear it away. Limit these foods and drinks, and try to brush about 20 minutes after eating them (not earlier, or the brushing may hurt your enamel further). If you must have your daily soda, do so by drinking through a straw to limit the contact the liquid has with your teeth. Even if your teeth aren’t yet feeling sensitive, it’s a good idea to be cautious about consuming certain foods and drinks, as enamel loss is irreversible.
Stop the Grind
If you’re grinding your teeth when you’re tense, you could be wearing away enamel and giving yourself a sensitivity problem. You may not even realize you’re grinding. Often people only do it while they’re sleeping, but unexplained jaw pain or headaches could be a clue. If you do grind your teeth, try a mouth guard at night, or change your sleeping position. A mouth guard acts as a protective bite piece that is placed on your teeth to protect the enamel, similar to those worn by athletes in contact sports. If you notice yourself clenching during the day, remind yourself to relax your jaw with your teeth slightly apart.
If you have any questions about sensitive teeth, call Winning Smiles to schedule an appointment with your dentist – 716-332-2444.