Sensitive Teeth

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What Is Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is caused by a variety of things, and studies show that at least 40 million adults suffer from this condition. Tooth sensitivity usually manifests as a short sharp pain, followed by aching when teeth are exposed to hot or cold foods or cold air.

Fortunately, there are many ways you can prevent sensitive teeth and improve your dental health.

The Most Common Symptoms of Dentin Sensitivity

  • Hypersensitivity to hot and cold foods, manifested by sharp pain and then aching
  • Breathing cold air also causes pain and aching
  • Sensitivity while brushing

What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity, or dentin sensitivity, is caused when the enamel on our teeth is worn thin, exposing the underlying surface, known as dentin. Dentin holds tiny tubes of fluid within it and when these are exposed to extreme temperatures, it can cause pain due to nerve irritation. Gum recession also plays a large part, as this leads to less protection for your teeth, their roots, and the nerves. Sometimes the teeth can become so sensitive that even touching them brings pain.

Acidic foods, sugary beverages, and acid reflux all play a part in the degeneration of enamel. Bulimia can also affect tooth sensitivity, due to increased acid eating away at the enamel.

Other things can lead to tooth sensitivity. Some patients note increased pain after having dental work done, such as fillings, crowns, or teeth whitening. Most often, after these types of procedures, the sensitivity won’t last, but in the event that it does, having a dialogue with your dentist at your follow-up appointment can help them recommend ways for you to manage your dental health.

Reducing or Avoiding Tooth Sensitivity

If you notice that pain and aching persists for more than 3 or 4 days, it’s probably time to speak with your dentist about ways you can protect your teeth and improve their health. Having them recommend a good desensitizing toothpaste is a great place to start, along with a few home remedies.

Ways To Reduce Dentin Sensitivity

  • Decreasing consumption of acidic foods and soft drinks will help preserve enamel on your teeth.
  • Brushing too hard can also wear down tooth coating and expose the dentin. If the bristles on your toothbrush are flattened and pointing different directions, brush more lightly, and consider staying away from hard bristle toothbrushes. Soft or medium work just fine.
  • Using tartar-control, teeth-whitening, or fluoride toothpastes can also expose sensitive areas on your teeth, so if you’re dealing with sensitivity, it’s best to stay away from those.
  • Avoid drinking or eating anything that is extremely hot or cold for a few weeks.
  • Changing your diet to include less soda and other acidic things like wine, orange juice, and sports drinks would help greatly.
  • Drinking from a straw when consuming hot or cold beverages can help alleviate sensitivity.

Best Toothpastes for Sensitive Teeth

Toothpaste specifically formulated for sensitive teeth is a low-cost and effective method to begin the healing process. This particular type of toothpaste contains a desensitizing agent – usually stannous fluoride, potassium nitrate, or strontium chloride – that protects the exposed dentin by blocking the sensitive inner tubes that run to the nerves over time with habitual use. These ingredients help block the pain sensation to the nerves, and can also be massaged into the gums to help relieve sensitivity as well. Most desensitizing toothpastes need to be used regularly for about 30 days to deliver the benefits.

We recommend using a desensitizing toothpaste that contains only 5% potassium nitrate.

Your dentist may also apply a protective coating to your teeth if the sensitivity is quite severe. Afterwards, they may request that you refrain from all sources of irritation (acidic foods, medications, or flavored toothpastes) for a short period of time.

The issue with desensitizing toothpastes is to find one that doesn’t further irritate your teeth. One of the main ingredients in standard toothpaste is sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), which gives toothpaste the familiar foaming qualities. Often, this can irritate the inside of your mouth and gums, and toothpaste for sensitive teeth or gums is an excellent option as it does not contain SLS.

Sensodyne ProNamel Gentle Whitening is one of the best options for those with sensitive teeth. In addition to a soothing agent that has a cumulative effect and heals your teeth’s sensitivity over time, it also contains a gentle whitening agent that prevents yellowing and further enamel loss and helps restore acid-eroded enamel.  As such, it’s the perfect paste for habitual coffee drinkers and those who have exposed their teeth to high acidic levels. It also contains 5% potassium nitrate, which helps to numb your mouth to avoid unnecessary pain while brushing.

Colgate Sensitive Prevent and Repair toothpaste is great for sensitive teeth. It contains high levels of fluoride to help preserve and reinforce the weak areas in your enamel and also has the potassium nitrate needed to soothe and prevent pain while brushing. This toothpaste promises results in as little as two weeks with daily use and works by blocking pain sensors to the inner pulp of your teeth.

Natural Remedies for Sensitive Teeth

In addition to over-the-counter toothpastes, there are also some simple remedies you can try at home.

  • A salt water rinse helps balance the pH of your mouth and creates a more alkaline atmosphere that makes it difficult for bacteria to thrive. It’s also a natural antiseptic, which helps prevent plaque build-up. Mixing two teaspoons of salt into warm water and swishing twice a day can help reduce sensitivity and poor dental health.
  • Garlic offers a lot of natural compounds that can improve your overall dental health. It is a natural antibacterial and antiseptic agent and can relieve tooth sensitivity pain as well as more severe issues, like abscesses/infections. Make a paste with one crushed garlic clove, ½ teaspoon of salt, and a few teaspoons of water, and gently coat the affected tooth or teeth. Allow it to sit for several minutes, and then rinse thoroughly. Even using this method once a day can alleviate pain, sensitivity, and other issues.

Dealing with sensitive teeth on a daily basis is no laughing matter. Fortunately, there are a variety of easy and healthful ways to treat it and prevent it from happening again. If you have more questions check out our FAQ page or contact us for more information and professional dental help.