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Franklyn Alexander, DDS
General & Cosmetic Dentistry

Patients Choice Winner 2016

About Sensitive Teeth

Do you avoid things like ice cream and hot drinks because they can send bolts of pain through your teeth and gums? One out of every five people suffer from dentin hypersensitivity, and it can be a real nuisance and even painful to live with. By determining what triggers your sensitivity, you can better manage it. There are also various forms of treatment available that can provide you with relief.

Root Causes

First, let’s break down exactly what’s happening to cause the sensitivity. As the protective enamel coating on your teeth begins to wear away, it leaves microscopic tubules exposed. This allows hot or cold food and beverages to react with the nerves inside your teeth, causing those sharp jolts of pain.

Sensitivity can also result from teeth that are chipped or fractured, or gums that are receding. Take note of the manner, location, and circumstances surrounding the pain so that you can provide a detailed description to your dentist. This will allow him to identify the triggers and effectively treat the problem.

Identify Its Triggers

By identifying your triggers, or outside influences that can bring on your dentin sensitivity, you can work to eliminate them as a means of finding relief.

Many common triggers are related to the type of toothbrush you use, as well as your oral hygiene habits.

  • If your toothbrush if medium or hard, it will wear down your enamel and your gum tissue faster, which in turn exposes the nerves. Purchase a soft toothbrush instead.
  • The same is true if you are brushing too aggressively. You can tell by looking at the bristles on your toothbrush. Are they flared? If so, pay special attention to the way you brush and make sure it is not too hard.
  • Next, check the toothpaste you use. If the tube says anything about tartar control or whitening, the ingredients could be contributing to your sensitivity.

Acid is also a big factor in dentin hypersensitivity. Acid reflux disease or the frequent consumption of foods and drinks that are acidic can greatly increase sensitivity. Foods and drinks to avoid include soft drinks, tea, fruit juices, white wine, and yogurt. Plaque is also acidic by nature, so heavy buildup along the gum line can be a trigger as well. Be sure to brush carefully and visit your dentist regularly for cleanings.

Lastly, clenching or grinding your teeth can make them sensitive. A mouth guard that can be worn at night to stop these unconscious behaviors may be necessary.

Treatments to consider

After you’ve determined which triggers apply to you and made plans to eliminate them, there are also several treatment options you can try. The most common is sensitivity toothpaste, which interrupts the signals between the nerve cells in the teeth to provide relief. Over-the-counter and prescription types work well, but give them about two weeks before expecting to see results.

Your dentist may also offer at home prescription treatments like topical gels. You can always ask to see what is available. In office treatments can also prove effective, such as dentin sealants, polishing agents, or fluoride varnishes.

The severity of your dentin hypersensitivity will dictate which treatments you should use. The good news is that regardless of your individual level of sensitivity, there are effective treatments available to relieve it. There’s no need to live with sensitive teeth.