Have you ever noticed that your teeth feel sensitive when you’re eating something sweet? How about something hot or cold?
As soon as I started dental school, one of the most common questions I got from my friends is how to stop their teeth from being sensitive.
Tooth sensitivity is a very common issue and it is often overlooked. I’ve seen a lot of people think that there is nothing they can do, so they just deal with it and go on with their lives.
The funny thing is that a lot of the time tooth sensitivity can be prevented or easily fixed.
But before we talk about that, we should probably start by talking about why your teeth get sensitive in the first place.
What Causes Sensitive Teeth?
One common reason your teeth get sensitive is because your enamel (the outer covering of the tooth) gets worn away and exposes the dentin underneath.
Your dentin is made up of tiny tubules, which have nerve endings inside of them. So, when this is exposed, you are going to feel pain.
But how does dentin get exposed?
There are many ways your dentin can get exposed. Some of the most common ways include:
Brushing Too Aggressively
You don’t need to brush very hard.
In fact, your teeth can get a better clean if you use softer strokes when brushing your teeth.
The harder you brush your teeth, the more you risk scraping away your enamel. And this will cause your teeth to become sensitive over time as your enamel wears down.
And losing your enamel is not the only thing you risk with brushing too hard. You can also damage your gums and cause gum recession.
The end result is the same though, you are going to feel some sensitivity.
No one can really avoid acidic foods altogether. And having a sweetened drink every now and then is not a big deal.
But, if you start off every morning by sucking on a lemon, chances are your teeth will experience some erosion and this will cause sensitivity.
If you simply can’t avoid any acidic foods in your diet, at the very least you can swish your mouth with water after to help neutralize the acids in your mouth.
Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth
A lot of people grind or clench their teeth at night in response to stress. Most of the time people do it without even realizing it.
Over time, this can cause your enamel to wear down or even fracture your teeth!
If you ever wake up with jaw or ear pain, this can be a sign that you grind your teeth at night. If you are still not sure, you can try asking your dentist to see if it looks like you have been grinding.
Tooth decay, otherwise known as a cavity, is something that forms gradually. And you normally wouldn’t feel anything until it gets bigger in size.
Luckily, your dentist should be able to tell if you have a cavity forming and fix it before it becomes serious.
So, if you regularly visit your dentist, props to you because that is one less thing to worry about!
There are other ways your teeth can get sensitive too.
For example, most people experience some sensitivity if they just had their teeth whitened, which should go away after a while. Or, if you just had a filling, your tooth may be sensitive for a few weeks.
And we already mentioned gum recession from brushing too aggressively. But, your gums can also recede with age or if you have periodontal disease, which can hurt if left untreated.
How Can You Fix It?
Tooth sensitivity can happen to just about anyone. But, it is most common around the ages of 20-50.
And having sensitive teeth doesn’t necessarily mean you have bad oral health. We just went over the common causes and most of them did not revolve around your oral hygiene.
So, if you are concerned about sensitive teeth the first thing you should do is talk about it with your dentist. Since tooth sensitivity can be different for everyone, it is better to describe all your symptoms to your dentist. Some good things to mention would be where exactly your teeth are sensitive, if anything makes it better or worse and what specifically your teeth are sensitive to.
For example, someone could go to the dentist and say “One of my molars is sensitive to just about everything, so I avoid brushing it because it hurts too much.” Another patient could come in and say “My front teeth are sensitive when I bite into ice cream, but they are fine for anything else.”
As you can see, although these situations both fall under the category of tooth sensitivity, they are two completely different scenarios and the dentist may treat each patient differently. So, when in doubt, it is better to go too detailed to make sure your dentist understands your symptoms.
A common solution for minor sensitivity problems is to use a sensitivity toothpaste. These types of toothpastes are especially useful if your dentin has been exposed.
Remember how we said your dentin is made up of tiny tubules? The sensitivity toothpaste can actually “plug” those exposed tubules and help prevent sensitivity.
As with any problem, it is better to act sooner rather than later, especially if that problem is causing you pain. Ignoring or delaying a dental issue only gives it more time to get worse and cause more problems down the road.
So, if you feel like something is wrong in your mouth, do not be afraid to pick up the phone and make an appointment right away.
Dental Secrets is providing this information for informational purposes only. Please consult a dentist or health advisor for questions. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete or up to date. What I write is my opinion and is not meant to be any sort of health or dental advice.