DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.
Tooth sensitivity is the number one complaint of people worldwide regularly. Most people experience tooth sensitivity in response to a stimulant, like cold drinks or food, biting or chewing, and even just breathing in air. If you struggle with sensitive teeth keep reading for tips and tricks on how to handle this very common complaint.
Causes of Sensitivity
One of the first places I start when discussing sensitivity with my patients is the cause or culprit of their sensitive teeth. Consider if you have any of the following.
Poor Oral Hygiene
When you have poor oral hygiene, the plaque and bacteria that are left undisturbed in the mouth can cause inflammation, demineralization, and erosion; all factors that can make teeth and gums feel sensitive.
- Decay can cause significant tooth sensitivity and pain. When a tooth has a cavity in it, this creates a hole, this hole continues to grow if left untreated, and as it grows, it gets closer and closer to the pulp/nerve of the tooth, creating sensitivity to temperatures and chewing.
- Erosion – Erosion typically progresses due to negative implications from the diet. Consuming unhealthy amounts of sugary foods and drinks, like candy, sodas, and sports juices, these have an eroding effect on the teeth.
- Wear- Excessive wear happens from an improper bite, grinding of the teeth, clenching of the teeth, and even from regular biting and chewing on non-food items like pen caps, fingernails, or other oral fixation objects. When the enamel is worn down, this can leave the teeth sensitive because the dentin becomes exposed
- Trauma can occur at any time, from a small slip and fall to bumping the mouth, to a more traumatic accident that needs immediate remediation. Fractures, cracks, and breaks to teeth can start out small and irrelevant but they can also grow larger and cause sensitivity. Any injury to the mouth where a tooth is broken and tissue trauma occurs will cause sensitivity and pain.
- Infections- Sinus infections can cause pressure in the mouth, making teeth feel sensitive and achy, this occurs on the top teeth versus the bottom. Infections at the root of a tooth often called an abscess, can also cause sensitivity.
Treatment for Sensitivity
Increase Oral Hygiene
Oral care should be the number one, top priority on everyone’s list when it comes to dealing with sensitive teeth. This not only includes the oral care routine performed at home but also encompasses the professional oral care that’s regularly needed through professional dental services like cleanings, exams, and diagnostic x rays.
Oral hygiene at home should include the following:
- Implement an excellent homecare program.
- Brush 2-3 times a day, effectively, which means at least 2 minutes of brushing, rinsing, and flossing every night, and even using interproximal cleaners for any spaces or areas that need a little extra attention.
- Visit your Dentist and Dental hygienist.
- Address any recommended dental issues and get your teeth professionally cleaned.
- Don’t brush right after eating, wait 30 minutes, additionally don’t brush after an episode of vomiting or right after having a reflux event
- Eat Clean, whole foods.
- Limit processed sugars and carbs.
- If the sides of the teeth touch, they can trap food and plaque, so they need to be flossed every day. I was always told that “ You only need to brush and floss the teeth you want to keep”… so that pretty much sums up the importance of brushing and flossing for longevity and health.
Professional oral care includes the following:
- At least 2 professional dental cleanings every year, more if disease or inflammation is present.
- Diagnostic x rays to evaluate normal and abnormal findings including infections, decay, broken or fractured teeth, bone structure, the sinus cavity, the jaw joints, and head and neck anatomy.
- Application of oral therapeutics if prescribed.
- Comprehensive exams that include a detailed medical and dental history.
- Oral cancer screening.
- Dental restorations and treatment as prescribed.
In the absence of a fluorosis diagnosis, fluoride can be applied to adult teeth to help with sensitivity. This needs to be done professionally in a dental office either by the dentist or a dental hygienist. This is called a fluoride varnish and is often done after a regular yearly professional cleaning appointment. Another option is xylitol-containing dental products like toothpaste, mouthwash, mouth gels, and even gums and mints that contain xylitol.
Dental professionals will often encourage patients to place molar sealants on the back chewing teeth, especially baby teeth but quite often adult teeth can benefit from this as well. A sealant is a flowable composite material that is cured into the pits and grooves of molar teeth. Sealing the pits and grooves keeps them airtight and sealed off from the ever-changing environment of the mouth, preventing sticky, gummy, and chewy foods from being retained in the spaces and decaying.
- Restorations- This includes fillings, crowns, root canals, sealants, and sometimes prosthetic appliances. A restoration is used to replace a part of the tooth that has become either decayed, broken, lost, or worn down due to some sort of oral trauma or disease.
Sensitive teeth happen sometimes, and most of the time, there is a cause and a treatment for it. If you are still unsure about your sensitive teeth then be sure to schedule a visit to your dentist as soon as possible for a comprehensive evaluation.
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Be sure to check out our selection of toothbrushes for individuals with special needs. This includes our silicone toothbrushes that make oral care easy to start. Our DINOSAUR, PENGUIN, and DUCK character sonic toothbrushes make oral care fun. And our special soft toothbrush with our most extensive bristle count has the softest texture brush that we offer.
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Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.