There is nothing worse than looking forward to your favorite treat, only to find that eating it causes pain to your teeth. A bite of ice cream, a sip of hot coffee, or even a healthy snack of citrus fruit can be painful.
Unfortunately for those with extremely sensitive teeth, this happens all too often.
Teeth are comprised of many layers, the strongest of which is the enamel. When the enamel has worn away and dentin that coats the nerve of each tooth is left exposed, painful tooth sensitivity is experienced.
Teeth sensitivity- also known as dentin hypersensitivity or root sensitivity- can be caused by a number of things, including age, vigorous brushing, and injuries, among other causes. Dentin hypersensitivity affects more than 40 percent of the adult population world wide, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.
Certain foods can lead to tooth sensitivity. Highly acidic foods such as sodas, citrus juices, and pickles can cause enamel to wear out and expose sensitive areas of the tooth. Bodily acids can damage teeth as well. Those who suffer from bulimia or gastroesophageal reflux disease must pay special attention to their dental care routines, as bodily acids can cause tooth erosion and sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity can also be caused by facial injuries and chipped teeth. Wearing a mouthguard can help avoid this by keeping teeth from smashing together and causing major oral injuries. Protecting teeth with a mouthguard during sports and physical activity can also lower the risk of concussion.
Sometimes tooth sensitivity cannot be avoided. The aging process comes with receding gum lines and years of vigorous brushing, which can contribute to tooth sensitivity. Those who have undergone orthodontic treatment such as dental braces, have had routine teeth cleanings throughout their lives, or had cavities filled might also experience tooth sensitivity during and after their procedures.
Braces are made to guide teeth into alignment, which will naturally cause discomfort to patients. Those with braces must take great care to thoroughly clean their teeth and braces because trapped food can create acid that can eventually lead to cavities, decalcification and increased tooth sensitivity.
Patients who have sensitive teeth and are undergoing orthodontic treatment might fear the day their braces come off. While the procedure of removing braces simply feels like intense pressure on the teeth to most people, those with sensitive teeth might have a harder time enduring it. However, orthodontists are highly trained to reduce discomfort to all patients.
Once braces have been removed, patients can finally treat tooth sensitivity on the entire tooth surface, focusing on what was covered by the braces.
There are a number of home remedies and in-office procedures that can help alleviate tooth sensitivity.
Simple modifications to your everyday oral hygiene routine can help tremendously. First, a soft bristle toothbrush is recommended, as well as gentler brushing strokes. We also recommend patients double check the proper way to brush teeth, as improper brushing can cause unnecessary scratching of the enamel.
Second, special toothpastes exist to protect teeth from tooth sensitivity. You don’t need to sacrifice fluoride or whitening, because several toothpastes made for tooth sensitivity come with whitening and fluoride capabilities. There are special rinses and mouthwashes that also come made for sensitive teeth.
The Canadian Dental Association recommends using products that have their seal of approval to ensure the product you use has passed the ADA criteria for effectiveness.
At the Office
Dentists can offer a fluoride gel to strengthen enamel. They can also offer to “seal” sensitive teeth with a plastic material. Covering teeth mends the exposed dentin and worn enamel and reduces sensitivity.
No matter the level of sensitivity, make sure to bring it up at your next visit to your dentist or orthodontist so they can advise the best solution for your oral health.