Even those of us who possess the whitest of smiles occasionally suffer from sensitive teeth. Whether it's a glass of cold water after exercising or an ice cream on a hot summer day, no one enjoys that tingling feeling in a tooth when something cold hits it the wrong way. Sensitive teeth relief comes in a few different forms, but let's first take a look at some of the causes of that irritation.
Why So Sensitive?
A number of things can give way to a sensitive tooth. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), oral sensitivity can come from gum disease, cavities, an exposed tooth root, worn fillings or worn tooth enamel. A substance called dentin lies beneath the enamel and cementum (the two layers that protect the crown above the gum line and tooth root(s), and when these layers recede, microscopic tubules in the dentin are exposed. Hot and cold liquids, for example, can access the tubules and reach the nerve endings inside a tooth – producing that frustrating piercing feeling some people know all too well.
Most Common Causes
Many of us participate in daily activities that cause tooth sensitivity without even realizing it. According to ADA spokeswoman Leslie Seldin, DDS, a New York-based dentist reported on by Everyday Health, the most common causes of sensitive teeth are those you may easily recognize. Brushing too hard is one of them: Using a hard-bristle toothbrush, or applying too much force, is a surefire way to wear down the tooth enamel that protects the tooth's nerves. Ease up on your grip and use a brush with softer bristles. Acidic foods can irritate your teeth as well. Variety is the spice of life, but foods such as tomato sauce, lemons and grapefruits can damage teeth even if they are pleasing to your taste buds.
Treating and Preventing Sensitive Teeth
If you suffer from sensitive teeth and suspect one of these conditions, the ADA recommends first scheduling an appointment with your dentist to identify the cause. From there, several courses of treatment can provide sensitive teeth relief. Some of those are below:
- Change your toothpaste. Switching to a desensitizing toothpaste such as Colgate® Sensitive Pro Relief™ treats the nerve that creates the pain in your tooth. Relief should come after several applications.
- Brush correctly. In addition to using a proper brushing technique, employ a toothbrush with soft bristles so as not to wear away enamel and cause gums to recede.
- Crown and bonding. Your dentist may choose to apply a crown or additional bonding to a sensitive tooth, in order to counteract decay or diminished enamel.
- Root canal. This is often a last resort for more severe cases of sensitivity when normal means of treatment aren't sufficient to dull one's irritation.
The best way to treat sensitive teeth is with proper oral health. That includes brushing and flossing your teeth on a daily basis, scheduling routine checkups with your dentist, and a healthy, balanced diet. An ounce of prevention is the best medicine. With the help of your dentist, you can develop good oral care habits that are sure to make you smile.