Tooth Sensitivity: How to deal with it and understanding why your teeth are sensitive

If you’ve ever felt pain or aching sensitivity when you eating something cold, hot, or sweet, you aren’t alone. Tooth Sensitivity affects 57% of the population. At least 40 million adults in the United States have suffered with it, since it can come and go over time. So why does it happen and how can you deal with it?

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by so many different things!

  • Worn tooth enamel from using a hard toothbrush or aggressive tooth brushing
  • Gum recession which exposes the root to the elements
  • Hard enamel erosion due to highly acidic foods and beverages. It can also be eroded because of acid reflux or bulimia.
  • Use of abrasive toothpastes like some whitening formulas that also contain sodium pyrophosphate (the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpaste!)

Preventing tooth sensitivity is easier than you think! Twice a day, make sure you spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth with a non- or low-level abrasive toothpaste. Lay off the acidic foods and drinks as much as you can. Want to know if you’re brushing too hard? Look at your toothbrush. If your bristles point in multiple directions, you should ease up on the pressure. Also, buy a new toothbrush!

What if you already have sensitive teeth? You can use a toothpaste marketed for sensitive teeth. If you use tartar-control toothpaste, consider switching to a different one. That key ingredient of sodium pyrophosphate mentioned above may be the culprit, and you’ll be able to tell in just a few days! Fluoride treatments are also an option, though the most effective ones are the treatments prescribed by dentists.

If you have cold sensitivity, will warm compresses help? Likewise, if you have sensitivity to hot beverages, will ice or cool beverages help? Keep track of what you eat and the temperatures of those items (hot, cold, room temperature, etc.). Write down anything that helps ease your symptoms. You may find a pattern that helps you figure out the source.

When do you need to see a dentist? If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than four days and reacts to hot and cold temperatures, you need to see a dentist. It’s best to make sure the sensitivity is something you can treat at home, rather than ignore something like a cavity or abscess that’s in the beginning stages.

How do I describe my symptoms? Clarify exactly where the pain originates from and how long it lasts. List the trigger points: hot beverages, cold air, sweets, etc. You want to let him or her know if anything helps with the pain, as well. This is where tracking your progress really comes in handy.

Your dentist may prescribe several treatment options that can include a change in oral hygiene habits to special protective coatings (like in the cast of dentin hypersensitivity, or super sensitive teeth as a medical condition).

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by root exposure, hard enamel breakdown, or oral hygiene habits that caused problems you weren’t aware of. If you notice that your teeth are sensitive, take a step back and evaluate what may be triggering your problem, and you may just be able to stop it yourself!

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