Roughly one-tenth of people are estimated to experience some form of tooth sensitivity. This may be the result of worn-down enamel, sensitive roots, or a variety of other factors. Many people with sensitive teeth notice this discomfort when the temperature of the mouth changes drastically, such as eating very hot or cold food. Learning how to reduce teeth sensitivity can make life much more pleasant!
Your dentist can help you manage or treat your tooth sensitivity, regardless of the reason for its development. As with most ongoing medical or dental issues, determining the cause is crucial. Most causes lead to receding gums or an erosion of the enamel protecting your teeth and nerves.
Discover the top five contributors to this painful problem and how to reduce teeth sensitivity and maintain healthy teeth and gums.
1. Acidic Foods and Beverages
Acidic foods and beverages are among the most common contributors to tooth sensitivity. Food and drink with a high acid content can have a negative impact on the health of your teeth’s enamel.
Enamel protects the layer of tooth directly surrounding the tooth’s nerve; this layer is called “dentin.” Extensive amounts of acid can actually make the enamel thinner, so the dentin and thus the nerve are more exposed. These parts of the teeth are more sensitive without the protective layer of enamel.
Highly acidic items like sports drinks, orange juice, or tomatoes can cause uncomfortable or painful tooth sensitivity during consumption or chronically.
Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD) is a chronic condition in which stomach acid rises into the throat (acid reflux) and irritates the lining of the esophagus. This repeated exposure to stomach acid can also damage enamel.
How to Reduce Tooth Sensitivity: Balance your diet with alkaline foods (leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, root vegetables) in equal amounts to neutralize the acidity of these foods. If you suspect you may be dealing with GERD, talk to your primary care physician about the best ways to manage acid reflux.
2. Overenthusiastic Toothbrushing or Hard Toothbrushes
Sensitive teeth can also result from brushing your teeth too hard or too often. You might be an overenthusiastic brusher, or you might be using a hard-bristled toothbrush instead of a softer brush. Healthy teeth and gums are undoubtedly important, but too much brushing (more than two or three times a day is too many), extremely abrasive toothpaste, and hard-bristled toothbrushes can wear down the protective enamel of your teeth.
There are microscopic tubes in dentin, leading from the outside of the layer into the nerves of your teeth. As the enamel is worn off, these large pores are exposed — and they are very sensitive to temperature changes (or acid) in the mouth. In fact, just breathing very cold air can make sensitive teeth uncomfortable.
How to Reduce Teeth Sensitivity: If you are a fervent or frequent toothbrusher or use a hard-bristled brush, try switching to a softer bristle and a toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Keep your brushing limited to twice a day, and be gentle with your teeth. If you find brushing lightly difficult, use your non-dominant hand or hold your toothbrush with just your index finger and thumb to exert less force.
Are electric toothbrushes better? Electric toothbrushes and manual toothbrushes are both effective at keeping your teeth and gums healthy when used properly. A 2014 review of 56 studies found that electric toothbrushes are better at getting rid of plaque and gingivitis. Other studies have found a less defined difference or decided electric toothbrushes aren’t worth the hassle compared to manual toothbrushes. Electric toothbrushes are more expensive, can be difficult to find the right pieces for, and can be irritating for some people. Whichever toothbrush you choose, soft bristles are best for sensitive teeth.
3. Grinding Your Teeth at Night
Grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw, particularly when you sleep, is another common cause of worn-away enamel and contributes to sensitive teeth. As the teeth rub against each other for long periods of time with great force and no protection, the enamel quickly grows thinner, exposing the dentin.
You may grind your teeth or clench your jaw without being aware of it, often because of periods of high stress or experiencing poor sleep. These inadvertent sleeping habits can also cause headaches, neck aches, or a sore jaw.
How to Reduce Teeth Sensitivity: Simply knowing you tend to grind your teeth or clench your jaw may help you recognize when you do it and actively relax your jaw. If you grind your teeth at night, try stress-relieving activities (meditation, yoga, or deep breathing) right before bedtime. You should also talk to your dentist about how significant the damage is and if you need a mouth guard while you sleep.
4. Receding Gums
Receding gums occur naturally over time. As you use your teeth, the gum tissue slowly wears away. Serious cases can be the result of periodontal disease and expose dentin surrounding the root of a tooth. In more extreme cases, the root of the tooth itself is exposed. Additionally, bacteria can more easily get into the gaps and pockets created. You may eventually lose teeth or develop seriously damaged bone or tissue in the area.
Receding gums are quite common, but the recession should not be severe. In addition to unhealthy teeth and gums, brushing too hard or brushing with a hard-bristled toothbrush can speed the process.
How to Reduce Teeth Sensitivity: If your gums have receded more than normal, make sure you are brushing twice a day with a soft- or medium-bristled toothbrush. Opt for a sensitive teeth toothpaste, and make sure you brush correctly. Talk to your dentist as soon as possible. You might just need a thorough cleaning to make your teeth and gums healthy again and prevent the damage from getting worse. For more severe damage, a more serious procedure to completely repair your gums may be necessary.
5. Cavities, Broken Teeth, and Worn-Down Dental Work
Cavities develop because of sugars and starches that create plaque. Plaque eventually breaks down enamel and causes tooth decay, often around the edges of fillings or worn-down crowns. A cracked or broken tooth can expose the tooth’s nerve. All of these problems can lead to teeth sensitivity.
How to Reduce Teeth Sensitivity: If you believe your teeth are sensitive because of cavities or worn-down dental work, make an appointment with your dentist to have the appropriate dental procedure to resolve the problem. In the meantime, a saltwater rinse or clove oil may help manage any associated pain or sensitivity.
For More Information
If your teeth are sensitive, we can help! Dean Dental Solutions makes every effort to make your visit comfortable. Call us today at (501)771-2911 or fill out our form online to schedule an appointment.