If you’ve ever experienced pain or discomfort in your teeth after biting into a cold treat or sipping a hot beverage, you aren’t alone.
It’s a common concern—teeth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, occurs in approximately 1 in 8 adults. It occurs when the protective layer on our teeth (tooth enamel) wears down or thins. The sensation you feel may be sharp and temporary or lingering. Sometimes, other dental concerns, such as exposed tooth roots, a cavity or damaged tooth, or gum disease, may trigger sensitivity.
Solutions for Sensitive Teeth
You don’t have to suffer through the discomfort of sensitive teeth. There are a number of solutions you can use to address this issue.
Mild teeth sensitivity can often be managed with some changes to your daily routine.
- Limit acidic or sweet food and drinks. Food and drinks, such as carbonated beverages, wine, sticky candy, and citrus fruits, can wear down tooth enamel over time. Stick to snacks like sugarless gum, milk, and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables. If you do consume acidic drinks, use a straw so that contact with the surface of your teeth is reduced.
- Take a softer approach to brushing. Hard brushing of your teeth can wear and abrade your enamel and cause damage to the gums. Instead of using a hard toothbrush or vigorously brushing from side-to-side at the gumline, use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gently brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums. If you are using a better quality electric toothbrush, make sure you are using a “sensitive” toothbrush head.
- How’s your toothpaste? Be sure to choose a sensitive one—and if you use it, choose an alcohol-free mouthwash. Toothpaste with non-irritating ingredients formulated to desensitize teeth can help block discomfort from reaching the nerve of a tooth. Look for an over-the-counter toothpaste labelled for sensitive teeth. If you use mouthwash, alcohol-free rinses may be less irritating.
- Address your stress. You may not realize it, but stress can make you clench and grind your teeth during the day and as you sleep. The motion of clenching and grinding wears down enamel and can lead to cracked teeth, which can contribute to sensitivity or more serious dental issues. Unaddressed sleep issues also promote more clenching and grinding, adding more tension to the cycle. Reducing your caffeine intake and practicing relaxation techniques can help lower your stress levels and protect your teeth at the same time.
At the Dentist
Depending on the severity, your dentist can offer solutions to get your teeth sensitivity under control.
- Try prescription toothpaste or mouthwash. If an over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste or alcohol-free mouthwash isn’t decreasing your sensitivity, you may need an alternative. Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist which products may work better for you.
- Book a desensitization treatment. Your dentist can apply a professional product that reduces thermal stimulation to your teeth. This can be a more effective option to reduce discomfort, especially for patients who experience sensitivity during dental hygiene therapy.
- Wear a mouthguard. When grinding becomes a problem, using a mouthguard at night can help prevent damage to your teeth. Ask your dentist if this may be a viable solution for you.
- Adjust your teeth whitening schedule. Teeth whitening procedures at home or in a dental office may cause temporary sensitivity. Your dentist will work with you to come up with the best solutions if your teeth are sensitive.
- Schedule a dental procedure. Depending on the source of your sensitivity, your dentist may recommend further treatment such as a fluoride application or cavity filling. In more severe cases, a root canal may be recommended.
- Seek treatment for an underlying medical condition. Sometimes enamel can be worn down due to certain medications or conditions, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Talk to your dentist about the next steps you can take to address the issue.
If you have questions about your sensitive teeth, don’t wait. Continuing a healthy dental regime is important—brush and floss your teeth twice daily and visit Lewis Estates Dental Centre for regular cleanings and checkups. Addressing the cause of teeth sensitivity early will help you get it under control as quickly as possible.