There’s nothing like a hot cup of coffee in the morning or a cold glass of ice water on a hot day – unless that first sip brings a jolt of discomfort to the mouth. The culprit? Tooth sensitivity.
What is Tooth Sensitivity?
Your teeth are coated with a protective layer of enamel. If the enamel wears away or decays and exposes the tooth (or teeth), you can experience sensations including pain.
Tooth exposure can be caused by brushing too hard, as well as having a chipped tooth, or grinding and clenching your teeth. A medical condition, like acid reflux, can also be a cause. Even diet may play a role. Acidic foods like tomatoes and lemons and beverages like sports and energy drinks can dissolve enamel.
Preventing Enamel Loss
Damage to enamel is irreversible. Once it is worn away, there is no way to ‘grow’ it back. The trick is preventing or stopping the damage, and there are several methods you can implement to achieve this goal:
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid brushing the teeth too hard. Employ a proper technique, including holding the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to the teeth and moving it in a circular motion. Consider investing in an electric toothbrush, most of which use a circular cleaning pattern.
- Reduce or eliminate acidic foods and beverages from your diet. When that’s not possible, rinse your mouth with water after eating or drinking these items and then wait at least a half-hour before brushing your teeth.
- Be on the alert for clenching and grinding your teeth, both of which can cause tooth sensitivity. These bad habits are best treated by wearing a mouth guard while sleeping and avoiding chewy foods during the day
Protecting Your Remaining Enamel
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, one or more teeth will become sensitive. The first step is to see a dentist who can develop an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on your situation, options include:
- Using special toothpaste. After being applied several times, certain kinds of toothpaste can help block the sensation of sensitivity from the nerve.
- Applying fluoride gel. Used in the dental office, fluoride gel can help make tooth enamel stronger and lessen the feeling of sensitivity.
- Looking into serious dental treatments. When sensitivity is the result of decay or another tooth problem, a crown may help. If gum tissue receding from the tooth’s root is the cause, a surgical gum graft may correct the problem. In severe cases, a root canal may be the best option to help treat teeth sensitivity.