If you’re experiencing tooth pain and discomfort and you’re not sure what’s up, then you should read this article. There’s a big difference between tooth pain and dentin hypersensitivity, which is what dentists call a sensitive tooth. A toothache can be anything from an ordinary cavity to a serious problem that requires immediate treatment. But tooth sensitivity is really easy to identify and there are a lot of great solutions out there than can give you relief and comfort ASAP.
At your next dental exam or cleaning here at Luxe Dental, we can tell you if you already have risk factors that cause dentin hypersensitivity, or if you’re heading in that direction.
What is tooth sensitivity?
If you’ve had a relatively good bill of dental health and are just recently beginning to feel pain or discomfort when you eat or drink certain foods and beverages, that would most likely mean you have sensitive teeth. Do you feel pain or discomfort when eating ice cream or drinking hot coffee or tea? Or when you breathe in cold air? You might also feel this sensation when you consume acidic foods and beverages, like some fruits and fruit juices. If you drink cold, sugary sodas, that could be a double whammy for your sensitive teeth since cola is acidic and the ice makes your beverage really cold, too.
If it feels as if a chill runs through your teeth, especially when eating or drinking, you should see your dentist to see how you can reduce symptoms and prevent the problem from worsening.
It turns out that about half of us have an issue with tooth sensitivity at some point. It’s very common for this problem to come and go throughout your life if you don’t make certain changes.
So what causes my sensitive teeth?
Dentin is the layer of tooth that lies under the enamel. Enamel does a really great job of protecting teeth from agents that can cause sensitivity. It blocks dentin from exposure to icy, hot, and acidic foods and beverages that can cause pain and discomfort. But once tooth dentin is exposed, you can expect to experience tooth sensitivity either on a regular basis or, for some, sporadically.
Another thing that could cause the enamel on your teeth to erode is a diet high in acidic foods and drinks. So if you already have sensitive teeth, you may need to avoid these foods and beverages. But there is good news. If your tooth enamel is still strong and healthy right now, you can prevent it from eroding. Just be sure to brush your teeth every morning and at night, after dinner or before you go to bed. It’s important to state that neglecting to brush your teeth is the worst thing you can do for your overall dental hygiene, but also if you don’t want to develop sensitive teeth. Bacteria on your teeth thrive on the food left behind after a meal or snack. The faster you clean your teeth, the less chance bacteria will have to eat at and wear away your enamel.
Here are some acidic foods and drinks that can cause tooth sensitivity:
- Some kinds of fish
- Orange juice
- Sports drinks & energy drinks
- Fermented foods, like sauerkraut and yogurt
- Fruits high in vitamin C, including berries, limes and lemons
Another thing that can lead to sensitive teeth is the presence of receding gums. If you can see the root of one or more teeth, then you likely have recessed gums. But don’t just go on what you can or can’t see. Your dentist will give you a definitive diagnosis.
One of the first signs of recessed gums that you might notice is tooth sensitivity. Recessed gums can occur naturally with aging, but brushing your teeth too hard can also contribute. It is important to use a SOFT bristled toothbrush to avoid making things worse. If you don’t brush often enough and plaque and bacteria build up, your gums can start receding. Receding gums is something you want to prevent as soon as possible since it can lead to problems that are even more serious than dentin hypersensitivity and it cannot be reversed without surgical procedures.
What should I do if I have sensitive teeth?
The first thing you should do is see your dentist. It’s easy enough to diagnose sensitive teeth, but your dentist should confirm that’s what is really going on.
After you verify your dentin hypersensitivity, here are some things you can do to reduce discomfort and widen the gap between sensitivity flare ups.
- Alter your diet: Consume fewer hot and cold foods and avoid foods that are highly acidic. If you’re really sensitive to moderately acidic foods, then skip those too.
- Brush your teeth: Do this at least twice a day and use a toothbrush with SOFT bristles. Brushing your teeth too hard and using a toothbrush with hard bristles can wear away the enamel on your teeth, leaving the sensitive dentin exposed.
- Use desensitizing toothpaste: These over-the-counter pastes are designed to block mild pain signals in your teeth. It can take a few days to start working. Look for toothpaste products that say “for sensitive teeth.”
- Talk to your dentist: For serious cases of dentin hypersensitivity, you should ask your dentist about in-office treatment options. You can have a fluoride application to strengthen tooth enamel. Or your dentist want to protect your exposed tooth roots with a bonding resin. If tooth sensitivity is causing severe pain, and if other interventions haven’t helped, you may need a root canal.