How to Care for Sensitive Teeth
Hot, cold, sweet, sour or other extremes — when these changes make your teeth tingle with pain, you likely experience sensitive teeth. Before you swear off lattes forever, take a few steps to treat your sensitive teeth. If you can’t overcome your sensitivity, there also are a few interventions your dentist can provide to help.
Pick a Toothpaste Just for You
Toothpastes designated specifically for sensitive teeth can be a big help in decreasing those painful moments. That’s because toothpastes for sensitive teeth contain compounds that help to put a stop to the painful nerve transmissions from your teeth to your brain. Think of this like cutting a telephone cord: the messages won’t get through. Just don’t try the toothpaste once and quit because it doesn’t work. These toothpastes take a few applications to reach their effectiveness. If you try and still don’t feel less sensitive, your dentist can prescribe a stronger toothpaste or a special fluoride gel that reduces sensitivity.
Change Up How You Brush Your Teeth
Sometimes sensitive teeth can be self-imposed. If you brush, brush, brush to the point of making your gums bleeding, you may be irritating the nerves and making your gums more sensitive. Aggressive brushing can expose your tooth roots, making your teeth more sensitive. Even if you’ve been brushing your teeth this way for years, realize that gentle pressure is all that’s required to get your teeth clean. If you are having difficulty adjusting to a less-strenuous cleaning method, consider purchasing an electronic toothbrush, which can control how rapidly the bristles are spinning. Another trick is to use lukewarm water when you brush your teeth instead of cold water, which can increase your sensitivity.
Increase Your Fluoride
If you aren’t brushing with a fluoride-containing toothpaste, you should be. Fluoride helps to strengthen your tooth enamel, protecting your sensitive teeth from factors that increase your discomfort. Your dentist also will provide special fluoride treatments each doctor’s visit to ensure your teeth stay at their strongest.
Avoid Foods Known to Cause Sensitive Teeth
When you have conditions such as acid reflux, you avoid acidic foods. The same can be true for when you have sensitive teeth. Foods such as tomatoes, oranges and lemons are known to irritate sensitive teeth because they can affect the protective enamel around your teeth. Another dietary change you may wish to make is to reduce the amount of coffee and tea you drink per day. These drinks are not only hot or cold – they also can be very acidic. Diluting them also can help to cut down on their acidity.
Schedule a Checkup
If you wait until you experience a toothache to visit your dentist, you’re waiting too long. Skipping out on regular dental visits because your teeth "feel fine" could result in long-term damage to your teeth. Sensitive teeth can be an indicator of an underlying dental condition, such as periodontal or gum disease.
"Many patients diagnosed with periodontal disease tell me that don’t experience pain in their teeth and gums," says W. Frank Johnson, DDS, a dentist with a private practice in Hixson, Tenn. "Because the disease is not painful, most people don’t even know they have it until a dentist’s examination and X-rays reveal bone loss around your teeth."
This serious disease can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, resulting in tissue tooth loss. Because periodontal disease often does not cause symptoms until it’s too late, getting a check-up every six months — or more if your dentist recommends it — can be one of the vital ways you can protect your teeth.
Other conditions sensitive teeth can indicate include the destruction of gum tissue around your tooth’s root. This is often the case if you have seemingly tried everything to keep sensitive teeth at bay, and the pain or discomfort persists. Your dentist can likely fix this issue, however, via a root canal to treat and repair the area.