How to Deal With Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth can wreck all of the simple pleasures and necessities. Sure enough, tooth sensitivity is one of the leading concerns of dental patients. Eating and drinking make you wince, and brushing and flossing become a serious chore. Generally manifesting as sharp, temporary pain, sensitive teeth can often point to an underlying issue.
What Causes Tooth Sensitivity?
The uncomfortable symptoms of sensitive teeth can often be attributed to:
- Cracked or chipped teeth
- Exposed tooth roots
- Receding Gums
- Gum disease
- Worn fillings
- Worn tooth enamel
It’s always a good idea to see your dentist if you are experiencing tooth pain and discomfort, as these are all issues that need to be resolved. However, these particular issues may not be the root cause of tooth sensitivity.
Luckily, sensitive teeth are not always a sure sign that your teeth are unhealthy. If you follow a good preventative care regimen, your tooth sensitivity will be easier to manage.
Stop Sensitive Teeth Before They Start With Preventative Care
Building the habit of good dental home care is preventative healthcare at its best. Brushing and flossing are as important as ever and can help to prevent your teeth from becoming sensitive in the first place.
Selecting a soft-bristled toothbrush and a non-abrasive, fluoride toothpaste to add to your homecare routine can help to prevent tooth sensitivity. And of course, your biannual hygiene appointments ensure that no hidden issues like cavities catch you unaware.
Mouth guards for bruxism, or unconscious tooth grinding, can go a long way in preventing tooth sensitivity. If you grind your teeth, the enamel can become severely worn down, causing cracks and discomfort. A night guard will prevent your teeth from grinding against each other and can also relieve headaches and jaw pain created by TMJ.
Food & Drink Choices
It won’t come as a surprise that acidic food and drinks are highly corrosive to tooth enamel. And worn tooth enamel is a cause of tooth sensitivity. Wine, coffee, carbonated drinks, and many fruits, but particularly citrus, can all do a number on your teeth if you skip brushing or at least rinsing after consumption.
Furthermore, consuming food and drinks that are very hot or cold can also cause sensitivity-related dental pain. So if your tooth sensitivity is persistent, a good temporary solution is to avoid extreme temperatures and acidic food and drinks. You can also use a straw to avoid direct contact with liquids.
Dental Solutions for Tooth Sensitivity
Digital X-rays and other diagnostic procedures will help your dentist determine the source of your tooth sensitivity. Once your dentist has determined the underlying reason for your tooth sensitivity, they will have several solutions. Each patient is unique, so there are no cookie-cutter solutions to this common issue.
Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth
When applied with a soft-bristled toothbrush, desensitizing toothpaste can reduce the pain experienced by patients with tooth sensitivity. Most of these kinds of toothpaste work by temporarily filling small holes in your enamel and dentin. Your dentist might recommend a particular brand or suggest you select one that works for you after some trial and error. It can take a few uses for the toothpaste to begin to work.
Your dentist will offer fluoride applications during your biannual hygiene appointments. If you are specifically treating sensitive teeth, your dentist might apply fluoride in the office or give you a preparation to take home. Fluoride can strengthen tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity.
Here in Vancouver, B.C. where The Lowe Centre for Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry is located, our water supply is not fluoridated. If you live in a city with non-fluoridated water and forgo fluoride at your hygiene appointments, a fluoride treatment could make a great difference for sensitive teeth.
When restoring damaged teeth, dental bonding can help to reduce teeth sensitivity without the need to remove the enamel. Although the procedure requires the roughening of your tooth surface, the tooth-coloured bonding material quickly and effectively seals the entire tooth. Some local anesthetic might be required, but the desensitizing results are impactful.
Gum Tissue Grafting
Tooth sensitivity can also be caused by receding gums. When gum tissue breaks down, it moves away from the tooth surface below the gum line, leaving nerves unprotected. In these cases, your dentist may suggest gum grafting as the solution. The procedure involves taking tissue from your mouth and building a protective layer around the sensitive parts of your teeth.
Root Canal Treatment
When tooth sensitivity cannot be successfully treated with the aforementioned procedures, it could be indicative of a dental pulp infection. In this case, root canal treatment is the best way to address the issue.
3 Natural Remedies for Sensitive Teeth
There are also natural therapies that can help with sensitive teeth. Some patients swear by them, others find them less effective. But they are all safe, beneficial, and certainly worth a try.
Coconut Oil Pulling
Coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Oil pulling is the practice of swishing liquified coconut oil through your mouth, an ancient ayurvedic practice to promote oral health. Scientific studies have shown that “Coconut oil is as effective as chlorhexidine in the reduction of S. mutans”, the most common cavity-causing organism.
To pull coconut oil, use one tablespoon of coconut oil. Room temperature coconut oil will melt into a liquid in your mouth. Swish the oil inside your mouth, ‘pulling’ the oil through your teeth for about 30 seconds. Spit out the oil and rinse with warm water.
Add Clove Oil to the Oil Pulling Mix
Containing eugenol, a natural anesthetic, cloves, and clove oil can help to numb and reduce the pain caused by sensitive teeth. Try adding a few drops of clove oil to one tablespoon of melted coconut oil and pull for 30 seconds. This oil is very potent, so 1-2 drops should be more than enough. As with plain coconut oil pulling, rinse with warm water.
Salt Water Mouthwash
Salt water has long been renowned for its healing properties. By balancing the pH of your mouth, salt water can lower the acidity levels that can contribute to tooth sensitivity. Simply dissolve two teaspoons of salt into a cup of warm water and rinse. Try this twice a day, morning and night.
Managing Tooth Sensitivity
Although sensitive teeth can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, there are many treatment options to pursue. Practicing good home care and visiting your dentist for hygiene appointments biannually are the best preventative measures.
Dr. Ed Lowe
The Lowe Centre for Cosmetic and Implant Dentistry