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Understanding Sensitive Teeth

Do hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods, and beverages cause pain in your teeth? If so, you may have sensitive teeth. They’re very common, and although they’re annoying and painful, they can be easily treated and cured. If you have damaged teeth that are part of the problem, you may be able to reverse the damage, depending on the cause and the extent of the damage.

Usually, sensitive teeth occur due to erosion of the tooth enamel, which allows the tooth roots and nerves to be less protected from irritating substances. When you know the cause of the eroded tooth enamel, then you can correct it, and you may eliminate your sensitive teeth pain. Common foods that can cause your teeth to become sensitive include citrus fruits and beverages, pickles, tomatoes, icy drinks, or anything acidic. Although coffee is usually acidic, tea usually isn’t, so you might substitute unsweetened iced tea for your iced coffee. For some people, cold air can cause tooth pain. Of course, eliminating the substances and activities that trigger tooth pain is always an option that may be necessary for a short time. However, no one wants to continually deprive themselves of their favorite foods, beverages, and outdoor activities.

Receding gums can also cause sensitive teeth because the tooth roots and nerves will be exposed. If your gums are receding due to gum disease, be sure to seek dental treatment without delay. Treating gum disease before it progresses to periodontal disease can make the difference between losing your teeth or saving them.

It’s important to understand why you have sensitive teeth so you know how to treat them. Sometimes, there’s an underlying physiological reason for your sensitive teeth, but more often, it’s the result of lifestyle habits that can be easily changed. Your dentist will be the best source of information on treatments and cures, but they’ll need to know the cause if they’re to prescribe the proper treatment.

Why Do Sensitive Teeth Occur?

Although you may have an underlying medical condition, it’s more likely you have sensitive teeth from some of the following:

  1. Aggressive brushing habits using a firm-bristled toothbrush and firm pressure.
  2. Acidic foods and beverages like oranges, orange juice, tomatoes, pickles, iced coffee, and other sweet or acidic foods can erode your tooth enamel. When these come into contact with your sensitive teeth, they can cause sharp, stinging pain that can be excruciating, so you may want to avoid them.
  3. Bruxism, or tooth-grinding at night, can seriously damage your tooth enamel and leave it vulnerable to decay and erosion.
  4. Alcohol or other substances contained in your mouthwash or other dental hygiene products can cause your sensitive tooth pain to flare up.
  5. Cracked or chipped teeth can allow bacteria inside and start the process of decay.
  6. Recent dental procedures, especially a root canal, can trigger a temporary increase in sensitive-tooth pain, but it shouldn’t last for more than a few days. If it does, contact your dentist to ensure you don’t have an infection.
  7. If you notice decay around an old filling, it may indicate that the filling has failed and needs to be replaced. This is a simple fix if you attend to it quickly. You’ll only need to have the old filling removed and replaced.
  8. Ingredients in your tooth-whitening products can aggravate sensitive teeth, so try a formulation designed for sensitive teeth.
  9. Consider fluoride treatment from your dentist or get dental products that contain fluoride.

It’s important to know the cause of your sensitive teeth if you’re going to treat them and eliminate future flareups.

What Can You Do at Home for Sensitive Teeth?

Before you can get to the dentist, you can do the following in the meantime to alleviate your sensitive-tooth pain:

  • Include regular dental cleanings and checkups in your oral hygiene regimen. You should have annual checkups at a minimum, but twice-yearly is preferable. Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and use gentle pressure when you brush. Make sure to floss either before or after you brush to ensure that you remove all food particles that can lodge between the teeth.
  • Use dental products that are formulated for sensitive teeth and make sure they contain fluoride. Fluoride-containing dental products will help strengthen your tooth enamel and ward off future attacks of sensitive tooth pain.
  • Don’t skip your morning or nightly dental routine, no matter how rushed or how tired you are. Make your oral health as important as your physical health, and don’t skimp on your routine or skip it altogether.
  • Avoid foods that are high in acids and sugars, but if you consume them, then rinse your mouth well with plain water as soon as possible.
  • If you have bruxism, which is tooth grinding at night, ask your dentist about a custom night guard to protect your tooth enamel. Be sure to purchase your night guard from your dentist, not from the local superstore, because the generic nightguards won’t fit as well, they’ll be uncomfortable, and they’ll probably fall out at night.

Once you know the reasons for your sensitive teeth, you’ll be better equipped to treat the problem and prevent its recurrence. Although you can avoid foods and activities that cause your tooth pain to flare up, you want to enjoy your life, so take steps to maintain your teeth in good condition.

What Should I Ask My Dentist About Sensitive Teeth?

Nothing can take the place of professional advice from your dentist, who has decades of experience and expertise in treating dental issues. Ask about the following when you visit with them:

  1. Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments. They can be applied topically or as a sealant, or you can take fluoride orally, but it will strengthen your tooth enamel and may help stave off future attacks of sensitive-tooth pain.
  2. Ask about desensitizing toothpaste, which is different than toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Desensitizing toothpaste protects the nerve endings so that they don’t come into contact with irritants.
  3. If your tooth pain is caused by receding gums, ask about a gum graft that will cover the exposed root and nerves. This will eliminate the pain.

You don’t need to suffer from the pain and inconvenience of sensitive teeth. Your dentist can recommend lifestyle changes and dental product changes that can eliminate the causes of your sensitive teeth and let your resume the lifestyle that you enjoy.

When you take proper care of your teeth, they can last for a lifetime, and you will not need false teeth or implants, so contact your dentist for an appointment.

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