One of the most frequent complaints we hear from our patients is that their teeth are sensitive, causing them discomfort any time they eat or drink something hot, cold, spicy or sweet. This extreme discomfort causes them to stop enjoying their favorite foods and drinks, which essentially eliminates one of the best parts of life! If you have sensitive teeth, there are a few things you can do about it, which I’ll explain below. But first, let’s talk about what could be causing your tooth sensitivity.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
When your gums recede and the dentin is exposed, tiny tubes within the dentin can carry hot, cold, sweet and spicy sensations directly to your tooth’s pulp (nerve center). The gums can recede for a variety of reasons, including decay, wear and tear, brushing too hard, grinding, gum disease, tooth damage, plaque buildup, acidic foods, dental work, age and even tooth whitening products. Long-term mouthwash use has also been shown to exacerbate tooth sensitivity. Some of these factors make your teeth sensitive for a temporary period of time, while others cause more lasting sensitive teeth.
How to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity
There are a few things you can do at home to control sensitive teeth, including:
- Gently brush your teeth twice per day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss daily. Use proper brushing and flossing techniques to thoroughly clean all parts of your teeth and mouth.
- Use a toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth. Several brands are available and you may need to try several brands to find the product that works best for you. Ask us for a recommendation. Another tip: Spread a thin layer of the sensitive teeth toothpaste on the exposed tooth roots with your finger or a Q-tip before you go to bed.
- Avoid consuming highly acidic foods and drinks. Foods to limit and/or avoid include sugary candies and sweets that stay in your mouth, starchy, refined carbohydrates, carbonated soft drinks, fruit juice, lemons and citrus fruits. When you drink acidic liquids, use a straw to limit contact with your teeth.
- After eating or drinking an acidic substance, drink milk or water to balance the acid levels in your mouth.
- Use fluoridated dental products that can decrease sensitivity. Ask us about products available for home use.
- If you grind your teeth, use a mouthguard at night. We can customize one for you in our office.
- See your dentist every 6 months (or sooner, depending on your condition).
We also can offer certain dental procedures that can help. Some of the common treatments that we recommend include:
- White fillings (bonding)
- Fluoride varnishes
- Dentin sealers
- Surgical gum grafting
- Root canal
If you’re concerned about your sensitive teeth, start by visiting your dentist. We can identify or rule out any underlying causes of your tooth pain, and work with you to develop a treatment plan.