Does sipping cold water or chewing hot food make you say ouch? If you've got sensitive teeth, they can make eating and drinking difficult. The good news is, you don't have to live with them forever! With changes in your oral care and advice from your dentist, you may be able to get your teeth tough again.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
Tooth sensitivity is a fairly common problem, suffered most often by people ages 25 - 30. In a healthy mouth, the gums and tooth enamel shield the weaker parts of the tooth from stimulation, which prevents sensitivity. These protections can be compromised when the gums pull back from the tooth root or the enamel is worn away, exposing the sensitive dentin underneath.
Common causes for tooth sensitivity include any of the following:
- Brushing your teeth too hard, too often, or with a tough-bristle brush.
- Frequent use of teeth whitening strips or pastes.
- Having a cavity or having tooth decay near the tooth root.
- Grinding your teeth, especially at night when you are not aware of it.
- Eating acidic foods and using acidic mouthwash.
- Using abrasive toothpaste.
- Suffering from inflammation of the gums due to gingivitis.
Some of these issues can be hard to diagnose on your own, such as inflamed gums and tooth decay at the gum line. If your teeth are sensitive and you don't know why, a visit to the dentist is in order for accurate diagnosis.
How Can You Reduce Sensitivity?
Mild to moderate cases of sensitivity can be controlled by changing the offending behavior. In cases of gingivitis or tooth decay, you may need to hold yourself more strictly to your oral hygiene routine. Your dentist can also prescribe fluoridated toothpaste and mouthwash to replace your old products, which may have contributed to the problem. You should also replace your brush with a new soft-bristle brush.
You should avoid strongly acidic foods like soda, tomatoes, and lemon juice. When you brush your teeth after meals, you should also gently brush your gum line to dislodge any plaque that may be irritating your gums. If your sensitivity is serious, you can also try sleeping with a small amount of toothpaste on your gum line to keep bacteria from taking advantage of the nighttime opportunity to flourish in your mouth.
Speaking of nighttime, if your dentist picks up signs of nightly teeth grinding, you may need to wear a mouth guard to keep you from clenching your teeth at night. This both protects the enamel and prevents you from cracking your teeth or giving yourself a headache before you even wake up.
Can Dental Procedures Help?
In serious cases, the exposed tooth roots can cause sensitivity problems even after you've tried everything the dentist recommends. In these cases, the roots will need to have protection added by the dentist in order to keep them from being directly stimulated.
In the case of cavities, the problem area will be cleaned out and a filling will be applied. This procedure will take between 1-2 appointments, and recovery should be quick. Once the filling is set, your tooth's nerve should be protected from future pain.
When the teeth are healthy and simply overexposed due to loss of enamel or gum recession, they can be varnished with a protective fluoride coat. Just like wood varnish seals wood, this coat protects the dentin of your teeth and keeps acidic foods and bacteria from getting into it.
Whether your case is mild or serious, tooth sensitivity can be a sign that your teeth are suffering from decay already. For this reason, it's vital that you don't wait to talk to your dentist about the problem. The sooner you can get your teeth protected with the necessary dental services, the sooner you can eat and drink stress-free again.