Sensitive teeth can be difficult to put up with, and all too many of us write it off as just one of those things that come with getting older. Because the pain is sharp and sudden but disappears almost as quickly as it came on, we’re often tempted to think of it as an occasional annoyance, when you really add up all the hot meals, cold beverages, or chilly days, you’ll realize just how often sensitive teeth can affect you. Luckily, there are some things that can be done for dealing with sensitive teeth.
So what causes sensitive teeth? Teeth have a layer of dentin that is usually protected by enamel or gum. Dentin is connected to the tooth’s nerve, so if its protective layers are stripped away, it can cause pain. Anything that causes the dentin to be exposed is a potential cause of sensitive teeth, so if your tooth sensitivity has come on suddenly you should see your dentist to rule out something serious like a cracked tooth or cavity.
Typical wear and tear on our teeth can lead to the erosion of enamel, which is why good dental hygiene is so important. Sugars resting on the teeth for too long can eat away at the enamel, and brushing your teeth too hard can have an abrasive effect on both the enamel and the gumline.
How to Deal with Sensitive Teeth
So what can you do to deal with sensitive teeth in your everyday life?
With so many potential causes and even more triggers for sensitive teeth, it’s hard to know what to do and what to avoid. Your sensitive teeth will probably cause you to avoid triggers like hot or cold meals, icy cold air, sweet or sour tastes, or sticky foods, but some causes of sensitive teeth can be cured or at least the symptoms can be alleviated.
First, speak to your dentist. They can make sure it’s not something that requires immediate correction as well as recommend products or routine changes that might help alleviate the pain and prevent it from getting worse. Depending on the cause, your dentist may be able to install fillings or bondings that cover any exposed tooth roots or perform a root canal. They can also apply fluoride treatments or offer prescription fluoride treatments for you to use at home.
At home, there are a number of products that can help your sensitive teeth, no matter the cause.
Your first step will be to switch up your typical oral care routine. Switch to a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. These specially formulated toothpastes contain ingredients that can help desensitize your teeth, while also containing fewer irritants. You should also switch mouthwashes to an alcohol-free option with fewer acids in the ingredients list. Opt for a softer bristled toothbrush so your scrubbing doesn’t erode enamel, and if overzealous brushing is a big problem for you an electric toothbrush is a great option so you don’t end up bringing too much muscle power to the task. Continue to practice proper oral care, brushing for at least two minutes twice a day and using floss and mouthwash at least once daily.
Take care not to eat overly acidic or sugary foods like soda or sweets, especially right before bed. These foods and drinks can erode enamel. When you do eat them, make sure to rinse your mouth out with water, and never go to bed without brushing your teeth. You produce less saliva when you’re asleep, so letting the sugars stay in your mouth overnight means they won’t get rinsed away and allow your mouth to become a breeding ground for enamel-eroding, cavity-causing bacteria.
If you grind your teeth at night, invest in a mouthguard to protect your teeth while you sleep. Grinding can erode the enamel as your teeth rub against each other constantly. Your dentist can help you choose one, or you can find them at most major retailers that sell dental products.
A Note About Cosmetic Dentistry
Cosmetic dentistry refers to dental work that improves the appearance of the teeth or mouth and includes straightening, whitening, and more. You may be worrying that having sensitive teeth means you can’t have any cosmetic procedures done at all, but that’s not the case. However, it is very important to speak to your dentist or orthodontist about your concerns before having any cosmetic dentistry on sensitive teeth.
If you are considering teeth straightening, some orthodontics have noticed that using Invisalign on sensitive teeth can be less painful than traditional braces. No matter which option you choose, you should listen to your dentist’s care instructions and follow a thorough oral hygiene routine to keep your teeth clean and healthy.
Teeth whitening can be a cause of sensitive teeth. In a whitening treatment, whether done by a professional or an over-the-counter option, harsh chemicals remove years’ worth of built-up stains on your teeth, but it can sometimes erode some of your tooth enamel, too. If you have started experiencing sensitive teeth, it is probably best to lay off the whitening products for a little while to give your enamel a break.
There are some products specifically made for teeth whitening for sensitive teeth, so if you absolutely need to whiten, try some of these products to do so safely. The best options are toothpastes that are specially formulated for sensitive teeth but also help whiten at the same time.
Sensitive teeth can be annoying and downright painful, and they can be a symptom of a wide variety of dental concerns, but there is hope. There are a number of products specially formulated for sensitive teeth that you can use to alleviate the pain. A visit to your dentist’s office will help you determine why your teeth have been feeling sensitive and if there are any procedures that can be done to fix them, and if you have sensitive teeth, you should share your concerns with your dentist before any cosmetic dental procedures like whitening or straightening. The most important thing is to practice good oral hygiene to keep your mouth clean and healthy for years to come.