All of us at some point in time suffer from sensitive teeth, even those with the whitest smiles. Tooth sensitivity, or "dentin hypersensitivity," is exactly what it sounds like: pain or discomfort in the teeth as a response to certain stimuli, such as hot or cold temperatures. That tingling feeling in a tooth when something cold or hot hits it the wrong way is not an enjoyable feeling. Sensitive teeth remedy comes in a few different forms, but let's first take a look at some of the causes of that irritation.
A number of things can give way to a sensitive tooth. 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 fluids, 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.
It may be a temporary or a chronic problem, and it can affect one tooth, several teeth, or all the teeth of a single individual. It can have a number of different causes, but most cases of sensitive teeth are easily treated with a change in oral hygiene routine.
Some people naturally have more sensitive teeth than others due to having thinner enamel. The enamel is the outer layer of the tooth that protects it. 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, grinding teeth at night, regularly eating or drinking acidic food and beverages is a guaranteed way to wear down the tooth enamel that protects the tooth's nerves. 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.
Sometimes other conditions can lead to tooth sensitivity. Gastoesophageal reflux (GERD), for example, can cause acid to come up from the stomach and esophagus, and may wear down teeth over time. Conditions that cause frequent vomiting, including gastroparesis and bulimia, can also cause acid to wear down the enamel.
Gum recession can leave sections of the tooth exposed and unprotected, also causing sensitivity.
Tooth decay, broken or chipped teeth, and worn down fillings and crowns, can leave the dentin of the tooth exposed, causing sensitivity. If this is the case, you will likely only feel sensitivity in one particular tooth or region in the mouth instead of the majority of teeth.
Your teeth may be temporarily sensitive following dental work such as getting fillings, crowns, teeth bleaching, etc. In this case, sensitivity will also be confined to one tooth or the teeth surrounding the tooth that received dental work. This should subside after several days.
If your tooth sensitivity is mild, you can try over the counter medication first. Choose toothpaste that's being specifically made for sensitive teeth. These toothpastes won't have irritating ingredients and may contain desensitizing ingredients to help block discomfort from travelling to the nerve of the tooth. Choose mouthwash that is alcohol fee, this will be less irritating to sensitive teeth. A softer toothbrush and milder brushing can also help with the sensitivity. Soft toothbrushes are labeled as soft.
It can take a few days and applications for the product to start working. If an improvement is not seen within a few days, maximum a week, a dentist should be consulted that might decide to prescribe prescription toothpaste and mouthwash. The dentist might apply fluoride gel or prescription grade desensitizing agents in office. This will help strengthen the enamel and protect teeth.
If underlying medical conditions are causing tooth sensitivity, it will have to be treated before it causes enamel to wear down or damage to teeth.
GERD - can be treated with acid reducers, and bulimia should be treated under a supervising psychiatrist.
Receding gums - can be treated by brushing more gently and maintain good oral hygiene. In cases of intense sensitivity and discomfort due to severe gum recession, our dentist may recommend using a gum graft. This procedure involves taking tissue from the palate and placing it over the root to protect the tooth.
A person can train themselves to stop clenching or grinding their teeth by being mindful not to do so during the day. Reducing stress and caffeine before bed can help prevent grinding teeth at night. A mouth guard could be worn at night to prevent damaging teeth from grinding if the former does not work.
If you suffer from sensitive teeth and suspect one of these conditions, the SADA 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. Switch to a desensitizing toothpaste to treat the nerve that creates the pain in your tooth. Relief should come after several applications.
- Change your mouthwash. Switch to a mouthwash that accommodates your condition and adds to the healing and prevention of further sensitivity.
- 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.