Do your teeth twinge when you eat sugary snacks or drink ice-cold beverages? You’re not alone. At least 45 million Americans suffer from tooth sensitivity, and it can strike at any time. Sensitivity occurs when the layer of tooth enamel that protects the dentine underneath gets eroded.
Here are some of the causes for tooth sensitivity:
- Acidic foods and drinks. Sugar, grains, fish, processed foods, sodas and fresh meats lower the pH level in the mouth, causing teeth to lose minerals and leading to dental erosion.
- Brushing incorrectly. Brushing your teeth too hard, or from side to side, can wear away enamel, particularly where the tooth meets the gums .
- Receding gums. Our gums naturally recede over time, exposing the roots of the teeth, which do not have a protective layer of enamel to prevent sensitivity.
- Cracked teeth or fillings. If you have a crack in your tooth or filling that runs down to the root, it can cause sensitivity when you have a very cold drink or eat ice cream.
- Cosmetic treatments. Tooth bleaching may be popular, but that doesn’t mean all treatments are problem-free. In fact, some patients experience tooth sensitivity for a while after a bleaching treatment.
- Plaque build-up. A build-up of plaque or tartar can lead to gum disease and receding gums, and in some cases can even destroy the tooth’s support. Gum disease, or gingivitis, causes inflammation, which results in redness, swelling and bleeding gums. This also exposes the dentin, leading to sensitivity.
- Tooth grinding. Often a sign of stress, tooth grinding and clenching can cause the enamel to wear away. Depleted tooth enamel equals sensitive teeth.
Get Tooth Sensitivity Under Control
If you’re worried that having sensitive teeth spells the end of enjoying your favorite summery snacks, there are several ways you can reduce and prevent sensitivity and pain:
If you don’t already have an electric toothbrush, now is the time to switch! Dentists recommend electric toothbrushes for healthier teeth and gums. We recommend the Oral-B Pro 6000, which has a built-in pressure sensor that lights up when you brush too hard.
Clean your Gums
In addition to brushing every surface of your teeth, place your electric toothbrush bristles along your gum line at a 45-degree angle. Keep the bristles in contact with your tooth surface and gum while briefly applying gentle pressure.
Brush Twice a Day
If you’re using a manual brush, use a soft bristle. Brush morning and evening using small, circular motions, and avoid going from side to side. Make sure to wait at least an hour after a meal before brushing, because your tooth enamel can get softened by acidic foods and drinks, making it more susceptible to damage and erosion.
If you’re worried that plaque and gum disease might be causing your tooth sensitivity, make sure you’re using a toothpaste specifically designed to prevent it – like Crest Pro-Health Advanced Gum Protection toothpaste, which is clinically proven to reverse gingivitis and protect against plaque bacteria.
Speaking of plaque, you can reduce plaque build-up and prevent the gum disease that will make your teeth ultimately more sensitive by flossing once a day. Try Oral-B Glide Pro-Health 3D White Whitening + Scope floss – it slides up to 50 percent more easily in tight spaces* and provides a cool, clean feeling every time you floss.
Bring on the Fluoride
Use a toothpaste that will help minimize both the causes and symptoms. Consider using a mouthwash with fluoride, like Crest Pro-Health Advanced, to kill bad breath germs and fight cavities.
Eat Sugary Foods Only at Mealtimes
If you’re craving a sugary or acidic food or drink, make sure to enjoy it during a meal. This will limit the time your teeth are under attack and will help prevent further enamel erosion.
Talk to Your Dentist
Get your dentist and hygienist’s advice on avoiding sensitivity and improving oral health. If your teeth are discolored and you plan to have a whitening treatment, discuss the options with a professional to help avoid further sensitivity. You can also try a whitening treatment formulated especially for sensitive teeth, like Crest 3D White Whitestrips Gentle Routine, to remove years of stains for a whiter smile.
*vs. leading floss