With all the holiday festivities approaching, and all the goodies and treats you’ll receive from friends, families and neighbors, you certainly don’t want tooth sensitivity to spoil your enjoyment.
Did you know that one in five adults has sensitive teeth? If you’ve noticed that your teeth have sensitivity to cold or heat, or other stimuli, you’re not alone.
Millions of adults in the United States complain that they suffer from teeth sensitivity. It is often caused by eating or drinking something hot, cold, sweet or acidic. Some people notice teeth sensitivity to cold after being outside in the cold air. It may hurt when you eat hot or cold treats or when you indulge in a sugary candy or beverage. The pain caused by sensitive teeth can take all the enjoyment out of your favorite foods and beverages.
Why are your teeth sensitive?
Have you ever wondered why you have teeth sensitive? The reason behind teeth sensitivity to cold starts in the pulp of the tooth. The nerves in the pulp make teeth sensitive to cold when tooth roots become exposed due to receding gums or gum disease. Under normal conditions, the underlying dentin of the tooth (the layer that immediately surrounds the nerve) is covered by the enamel in the tooth crown, and the gums that surround the tooth. Over time, the enamel covering can get thinner, thus providing less protection. The gums can also recede over time, exposing the underlying root surface dentin. In addition, the dentin contains a large numbers of pores or tubes that run from the outside of the tooth to the nerve in the center. When the dentin is exposed, these tubes can be stimulated by changes in temperature or certain foods.
In addition, brushing too hard or using a hard-bristled toothbrush can cause gum recession and root exposure over time. Also, you may experience increased sensitivity at different ages throughout your life. Eating acidic foods and beverages on a regular basis can cause enamel to erode, increasing the likelihood of sensitivity. Other factors can make teeth sensitive, including tooth decay or damage, a recent dental procedure, or use of tooth-whitening products.
What can you do about it?
The first step in doing something about dental sensitivity is to find out what the cause is – a dental professional can help you with this. If the sensitivity is due to exposed dentin, there are a number of steps you can take, as can your dental professional, to help reduce the sensitivity. These can include the following:
Avoid tooth grinding, or bruxism, which can lead to a sensitive tooth or teeth. Not only can the act of grinding itself cause a sensitive tooth, but chronic grinding can wear away tooth enamel and expose tiny tubules that lead to the nerves in the inner part of the tooth. If you grind your teeth at night, talk to your dentist about a mouth guard.
Try warm water. A sensitive tooth may be irritated if you brush your teeth with cold water. Try using warmer (but not hot) water when you brush your teeth.
Using a very soft bristle tooth brush along with mouth rinses that contain fluoride.
Brushing correctly to help prevent abrasion of the enamel and recession of the gums.
Using a toothpaste specially formulated to help reduce sensitivity. Look for toothpastes that have an active ingredient called stannous fluoride, which is clinically-proven to help protect teeth from painful sensitivity.
Limit your intake of highly acidic foods and beverages, that can irritate a sensitive tooth.
Your dental professional can perform these:
Apply a fluoride varnish on the sensitive areas to help strengthen the tooth; Fluoride binds to the enamel to create a micro-thin shield, strengthening the tooth.
Prescribe a high fluoride tooth paste to use every day;
Place a dental restoration to build up the areas that have lost enamel.
Using the right sensitive toothpaste can be a convenient and economical way to manage teeth sensitivity, allowing you to continue to indulge in the foods and beverages you enjoy most, including coffee, tea, ice cream and acidic foods.
In the end, whether you need an in-office procedure or over-the-counter products, the most important step is to see a dental professional so that he or she can determine the cause of the tooth sensitivity and help you find a solution that will work.
We hope that you enjoy your holidays with all the treats and beverages, hot and cold!