On a hot summer’s day, there’s nothing more refreshing than an icy cold beverage. But if your teeth are sensitive, a rush of cold liquid can make you wince in pain. What causes tooth sensitivity, and are there any at-home tips for sensitive teeth? Find out what may be causing your discomfort, ways you may be able to prevent it, and why you may need to see a dentist to get relief.
Why Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
Did you know that the top layer of your teeth is the hardest substance in the body?1 Known as enamel, it protects against damage if you take good care of your teeth. Unfortunately, it’s possible to erode enamel, and when that happens, a softer layer called dentin is exposed. Dentin connects to the tooth pulp and contains thousands of nerve endings. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, it’s likely due to worn enamel or exposed tooth roots.
What can cause tooth enamel to erode?
- Brushing your teeth too hard – Hard brushing can actually wear away the enamel.
- Sugary and acidic foods and beverages – Both sugar and acids can eat away at the tooth enamel.
- Heartburn and/or Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) – Stomach acid due to acid reflux can cause enamel to erode.
- Teeth clenching or grinding – You may be unaware that you’re clenching or grinding, as it sometimes occurs during sleep. But these abrasive actions will erode enamel.
Other reasons why you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity may include:
- A cracked tooth, cavity, or worn filling
- Receding gums – If your gums are pulling away from your teeth, that may be a sign of gum disease, which will not only cause tooth sensitivity due to exposed roots but may also lead to bone and tooth loss.
- Tooth Bleaching – Chemicals in the bleaching solution can penetrate the enamel and access the nerve endings in the dentin layer.
Tips for Sensitive Teeth if You’re Experiencing Sensitivity
Try these at-home tips to reduce tooth sensitivity and pain:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush or toothbrush head for a sonic cleaner. Make sure to replace the brush or head every three months since the bristles wear out and lose their effectiveness.
- Use gentle circular motions while brushing rather than the more abrasive back and forth or side-to-side movements.2
- Look for a toothpaste that has a low Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) number.
- If you’ve had acidic foods or drinks, wait at least 30 minutes to brush your teeth. Acidic remnants may remain on your teeth shortly after eating or drinking, and brushing them before they can be washed away can cause enamel erosion.3
- Most dentists do not recommend at-home tooth whitening. But if you must whiten your teeth at home, look for options that have a low sensitivity rating and contain lower levels of hydrogen peroxide.
How Your Dentist Can Provide Tooth Sensitivity Relief
If your at-home regimen isn’t lessening the pain, it’s time to visit your dentist. A dentist will conduct a thorough examination to find out what’s causing your sensitivity and recommend treatments based on the diagnosis. Here are some possible treatments:
- Your dentist may apply fluoride to sensitive areas to build up your enamel or prescribe a fluoride product to use at home.
- Bonding resin can be applied to sensitive root surfaces if the roots are exposed.
- Your dentist may want to learn more about why you’re grinding your teeth and will recommend treatment based on your individual case.
- If your gums are receding, your dentist may recommend a gum graft – a procedure that takes gum material from other areas of your mouth and attaches it to the location where sensitivity is occurring.
- If your dentist finds that you have an infected tooth, a root canal treatment is the best way to remove bacteria and eliminate sensitivity.
Visit a Dentist to Eliminate Your Tooth Sensitivity Once and For All
If your tooth sensitivity continues to bother you, it’s best to let a dentist find out what’s causing it. Dr. Tehila Cohen at Empire Dental Care is expertly trained to diagnose and treat dental issues, as well as a caring practitioner who will make you feel comfortable as soon as you walk through the door. Both she and her staff earn consistent praise from many patients in the Rochester area.
Call Empire Dental Care at (585) 671-1650 to schedule an appointment. Don’t let sensitive teeth hold you back from enjoying your favorite foods and beverages.