The Best Cure for Sensitive Teeth
Looking for the cure for sensitive teeth? We don’t blame you. At the very least, sensitive teeth can be annoying. Not to mention, sensitive teeth often make it tough to eat or drink certain things. So what’s the solution?
What is tooth sensitivity?
Tooth sensitivity happens when the tooth’s hard enamel wears down or gums recede. When this happens, tiny microscopic tubes located below the enamel become exposed. Tooth sensitivity is caused by the stimulation of cells within these tubes. This stimulation causes a short, sharp pain when the area is exposed to hot or cold temperatures. This often happens through food and beverages — or even by the air.
Another cause of tooth sensitivity are cracks in the tooth’s enamel surface. Extreme temperature changes can cause teeth to expand and contract. Over time, microscopic cracks may develop, allowing hot or cold sensations to seep through to the nerves beneath the tooth enamel.
If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days, it’s best to get an evaluation from your dentist. The dentist will help determine the extent of the problem. Because pain symptoms can be similar, some may falsely think a tooth is sensitive. In reality, they may have a cavity or abscess that’s not yet visible. Be sure to tell the dentist when the pain started, and if there is anything that reduces or eliminates the pain. This can include the application of a warm compress or other home remedies.
What causes sensitive teeth?
Most of the time, people cause sensitive teeth by brushing too hard. Brushing too hard or using abrasive toothpaste and toothbrushes removes tooth structure. If a person removes tooth structure, it usually results in pain/sensitivity to food, air, cold drinks, hot, sweet or sour flavors, and/or physical pressure. This wears away the enamel, exposing dentin, or the inner layer of the tooth. This is what causes sensitivity, in most cases.
On the other hand, the outer layer (enamel) can get quite thin too. Enamel wears down very easily over time, especially at the gumline of the tooth. When this happens, gums start to pull away from the tooth. As a result, the root surface becomes exposed. The root surface is covered by cementum, a calcified substance holding your roots in place. This material wears away very easily. The dentin also contains microscopic tubules that link to the nerves inside the tooth. When the surface is exposed, the nerves are easily stimulated, often causing pain or sensitivity in these areas.
Other Things Which Cause Sensitive Teeth
While brushing too hard is certainly the most common cause of sensitive teeth, there are a number of other potential causes too. Dentists can help you identify the cause of sensitive teeth. However, it’s important to be aware of the problems that are out there. Below we’ve listed some other causes of sensitive teeth.
Certain foods and drinks are highly acidic. If you consume large amounts of acids, you can do a number on your enamel. Acidity slowly erodes the enamel of teeth, so of course, it contributes to sensitivity.
Gum recession can also cause sensitive teeth. When a person’s gums recede, it exposes small amounts of the tooth’s root. By nature, the roots of teeth are incredibly sensitive. They’re meant to be covered by your gums – go figure – so when they aren’t, it can be a little uncomfortable.
This one may seem like a given. However, periodontal disease, otherwise known as gum disease, can also cause tooth sensitivity. Gum disease breaks down the teeth, especially near the gum line. As this happens, a person’s teeth roots will begin to become exposed. Similarly, gum disease makes it hard for the gums to stick to teeth. This leaves behind pockets where bacteria can live and thrive off a person’s teeth.
Grinding teeth can also cause sensitivity. Clinically known as bruxism, teeth grinding is common while people sleep. It often happens as a result of stress, but sometimes the cause is unknown. Grinding down teeth is an easy way to wear down a tooth’s enamel. It can also cause cracks, fractures, or breaks, which all lead to sensitivity.
Many people have their teeth bleached, only to find their teeth sensitive on the other side. Teeth bleaching can also cause serious sensitivity. Here at Coddington though, we have whitening techniques specifically made to avoid sensitivity. You can learn more about those here.
Cracked Tooth or Fillings
If you’ve experienced a cracked tooth or fillings, you probably know that they cause sensitivity. The principle with these is similar. In both cases, the protective enamel/filling wears away, leaving the tooth slightly more exposed.
What can I do about sensitive teeth?
To prevent further damage/wear of teeth, brush your teeth more softly. Equally important, avoid abrasive toothpaste and use a soft toothbrush. Additionally, switch to a toothpaste that’s made for sensitive teeth. Sensitive toothpaste such as Sensodyne contains desensitizing agents that block the dentinal tubules. This stops the nerves from being stimulated.
It’s also best to massage the toothpaste in areas of sensitivity and to avoid rinsing with anything after. At times, it’ll take several weeks for the desensitizing agents to start working. For that reason, it’s a bit of a commitment. However, it can be worthwhile if you dedicate yourself to it. Most sensitivity toothpaste can be used indefinitely. However, some labels may have a time restriction on how long you can use the toothpaste. This is so people won’t avoid seeing their dentist on a regular basis. In reality, there are no actual health concerns in using desensitizing agents long-term.
It’s important to note that anti-sensitivity toothpaste may not work for everyone. A non-alcohol mouthwash with a high fluoride content may be a better choice instead. Be sure to use the mouthwash twice a day after brushing for at least 30 seconds. You can do so right before bed when you won’t eat or drink afterward.
Some people also find that GC Tooth Mouse and Recaldent MI Paste help with sensitive teeth. These products also help with sensitive teeth. However, they can also be quite a bit more expensive than some other products.
What can dentists do about sensitive teeth?
Depending on the cause of the sensitivity, special fluoride gels, rinses or varnishes can be placed onto affected teeth by the dentist. If the sensitivity still persists the dentist can place bonding around the neck of the tooth to cover exposed dentin. Different options should be tried first, for example, if teeth grinding is occurring at night then ask your dentist about the possibility of wearing a night guard.
Summing Up: Quick Tips for Sensitive Teeth
To reiterate, you can do the following to avoid sensitive teeth:
- Brush more softly.
- Use a soft toothbrush and toothpaste.
- Use anti-sensitivity toothpaste, like Sensodyne.
- Rinse with high fluoride mouthwashes.
- Use mineral-restoring toothpaste like GC Tooth Mouse or Recaldent MI.
- See your dentist at least twice a year for dental cleanings.
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Coddington Dental is a proud member of Nebraska Family Dentistry. We’re one of multiple NFD locations, some of which are even open on weeknights and weekends for your convenience.
Each NFD team member is trained to go above and beyond to keep our patients calm and comfortable, so you can expect the same exceptional care from all of our sister locations.