Nothing can ruin your day, night, or even your life like sensitive teeth. This problem of persistent pain because of sensitive teeth is a real nuisance. From sharp lightning pain that catches you off-guard to a dull throbbing that shadows you throughout the day, sensitive teeth can drive you to the end of your rope.
You are not alone. Tooth sensitivity is a very common condition. In fact, over 40 million adults in the United States report being prone to sensitive teeth. Many treatments for sensitive teeth are readily available. They range from simple steps you can apply in the comfort of your home to in-office treatments you can discuss with your dentist. Let’s see what can be done to overcome tooth sensitivity. Read on for 7 ways to get rid of sensitive teeth and get back to a pain-free life.
1. Use toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
There are several brands of toothpaste on the market designed to help people with tooth sensitivity. Reach for a toothpaste containing the active ingredient potassium nitrate. How does potassium nitrate work? It blocks the tiny holes in your tooth’s dentin, thus preventing irritation of the local nerves.
If you are experiencing sensitive teeth it is a good idea to switch to a new toothpaste regardless. Some toothpastes, especially those that contain whitening abrasives, can irritate your teeth. Your current toothpaste could very well be the problem.
2. Avoid acidic foods and drinks.
Drinking acidic beverages like red wine, pop, orange juice, etc. really does no favors for sensitive teeth: this goes for acidic foods like pickles or mustard as well. If you find your teeth gain sensitivity on days where you consume anything acidic, then this might be your problem.
Try avoiding these foods and see if it helps. If you find yourself struggling to avoid trigger foods, at least try consuming them in a way that avoids direct contact with any sensitive spots, like chewing on a non-sensitive side (if possible).
3. Change your brushing technique.
If you have sensitive teeth, your dentist or dental hygienist has probably asked about your brushing technique before. Developing a proper brushing technique can go a long way to preventing tooth sensitivity.
Use a brush with soft bristles: the bristle strength is specified on the packaging. In reality, you don’t need to scrub you teeth to clean them. A gentle downward flicking motion will suffice. This will spare your gums any unnecessary irritation which can ultimately cause them to recede and expose sensitive dentin.
Another aspect of proper brushing that bears stating is not to brush immediately after a meal. Food and drink that you just consumed, especially if acidic, can temporarily soften your enamel. Brushing while your enamel is soft is a surefire way to wear it away, so you should wait at least half an hour after a meal before you reach for your brush.
Frequent brushing can also lead to unnecessary wear and tear on your teeth. Brush twice a day (no more or less) for two minutes at a time.
4. Avoid using too much mouthwash.
Rinsing your mouth with mouthwash too often, or with the wrong kind, can also lead to tooth sensitivity. Some mouth rinses are slightly acidic. As such, following directly from our last point, rinsing with these right before you brush is a no-no.
Rinsing too often can also be problematic. Try limiting rinsing to twice a day, ideally right after brushing.
5. Avoid grinding your teeth.
Grinding your teeth when you’re stressed can wear away your enamel, causing problems with tooth sensitivity. Tooth grinding need not be a conscious effort. Some people grind their teeth when they’re unaware of it, maybe even in their sleep. This is a condition known as bruxism.
If you have a problem with regular tooth grinding, then it is best to see your dentist. They can fit you with a custom mouth guard which you put in before bed, ending unwanted tooth wear as you sleep.
6. Treat receding gums.
Normally, your enamel and your gums wholly cover the dentin of your teeth. If you have gum recession, a result of poor brushing technique, tooth grinding, gingivitis, or even genetics, then the dentin will be exposed along the gum-line. A dental surgeon may be able to rebuild or repair your receding gums by using a tissue graft.
Unfortunately, gum tissue often does not return on its own so this step might be one of your only options if your tooth sensitivity is the result of significant gum loss.
7. Paint your pearly whites.
If desensitizing toothpaste isn’t bringing much luck, there is a similar yet more heavy-duty solution available. Talk to your dentist about painted-on barriers. This technique uses desensitizing coatings like fluoride varnish or plastic resin to cover the sensitive areas of your teeth. This protective barrier acts in place of your worn out enamel or recessed gums. Painted-on barriers do wear out after a few months though and will need to be reapplied, so they aren’t the most cost effective option. However, they will often solve your sensitivity problem where other methods have failed.
It’s always a good idea to pinpoint the exact cause of sensitive teeth. This way you will be able to home in on the solution that works for you. Don’t get discouraged if you aren’t seeing immediate results.
It can take some time for the nerves in your teeth to calm down and allow your feeling of pain to subside. Take the time to find out which solution works for you. If you see no change after a week, consider consulting your dentist. They are there to help, and can provide valuable insight into this uncomfortable experience.
You might be wondering what causes tooth sensitivity in the first place. This is a result of the movement of fluid through tiny holes, called tubules, located in the dentin of your teeth. The dentin is the brownish tinged part of your tooth located below the enamel. The movement of this fluid results in the irritation of the local nerves, causing discomfort.
What activities cause sensitive teeth? There are many potential culprits to sensitive teeth. When gums pull back, or recede, they may expose sensitive dentin. This dentin can also be exposed as enamel is worn down through age, over brushing, or grinding. Plaque buildup, recent dental work, and even some mouthwashes or toothpastes can be the cause.
Sensitivity can also be a result of tooth decay or gingivitis (gum disease), so it is a good idea to visit your dentist if you experience persistent sensitivity lasting more than a few days, especially if you don’t find relief through any other method mentioned above.