Ouch! You’re sipping your favorite tea or a creamy milkshake when tooth sensitivity spoils the moment. How many times have sensitive teeth ruined a great meal or gathering? It’s frustrating when eating or drinking your favorite foods and drinks become a gamble. But you don’t have to live with tooth sensitivity. There are solutions– from changing your toothpaste to in-office dental procedures. The first step is working with your dentist to identify the cause and find the best treatment options.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth–And Why Is Gum Health So Important?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common causes of tooth sensitivity are worn enamel and exposed tooth roots. When we expose dentin (the hard layer under your enamel) and soft root tissue to hot and cold, it can cause pain and irritation. Some of the factors that leave the sensitive parts of our teeth exposed include:
- Cracked or chipped teeth
- Worn fillings
- Teeth grinding or clenching can wear down enamel.
- Gum disease: many patients don’t realize that gum disease and receding gums play a significant role in tooth sensitivity. When the gums recede, it can expose the root surface of the tooth. Gum disease can also damage the periodontal ligaments, which attach the teeth to the jaw. When ligaments are damaged, tooth roots are often exposed, leading to pain and sensitivity.
How Can I Prevent Tooth Sensitivity?
Good oral hygiene is one of the most important steps you can take in preventing tooth sensitivity. Some of the most effective preventive measures include:
- Regular brushing and flossing.
- Use ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste to strengthen enamel.
- Visit your dentist every six months for preventive care to catch problems early.
- Limit acidic foods, carbonated drinks and wine, which can wear away tooth enamel.
- Focus on good nutrition to protect gum health.
- Don’t use tobacco products, and if you drink alcohol, consume in moderation.
- Don’t overuse mouthwash. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acidic ingredients that can damage enamel. Talk with your dentist about which mouthwash you’re using and how frequently you rinse.
- Use tooth whitening products carefully, and let your dentist know which products you’re using.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush. Hard bristles and brushing too forcefully can damage enamel.
- If you grind or clench your teeth, talk with your dentist about a nightguard to avoid damage and protect enamel.
How Can I Treat Tooth Sensitivity?
Your treatment options will depend on the cause and severity of your tooth sensitivity. Talk with your dentist about your symptoms and start tackling the frustration of sensitive teeth. Options include:
- Desensitizing toothpaste which includes active ingredients that block pain signals from the tooth surface to the underlying nerves. Active ingredients include potassium nitrate to block pain transmission, strontium chloride to block openings in tooth dentin, and stannous fluoride to strengthen teeth.
- In-office or take-home fluoride treatments by prescription
- If a damaged tooth causes sensitivity, bonding is an excellent option. This non-invasive treatment involves applying a protective material to the damaged area, sealing nerve endings, and protecting them from what you eat and drink.
- A root canal is another potential treatment when sensitivity turns into pain because of infection. Your dentist removes the infected pulp, cleans the canal, and fills the area with a protective substance, eliminating pain and sensitivity.
- Gum graft: if you have sensitivity caused by severe gum recession, your dentist may recommend a gum tissue graft, usually using tissue from the roof of your mouth to help regrow gum tissue and protect your tooth roots.
Sensitive Teeth? Your Dentist Can Help
You don’t have to live with sensitive teeth. Not only does tooth sensitivity make life more challenging, but it’s also often a sign of more significant oral health problems. In partnership with your dentist, you can prevent and treat sensitive teeth, protecting your enamel and the delicate tissue beneath it. At Hall Family Dentistry, we have decades of experience helping patients address sensitivity and move forward with their lives. Our prevention and treatment strategies provide much-needed relief and help folks get back to the food and drinks they love.