Does your smile freak you out, especially after just getting up in the morning? How about your dental hygiene – is it good? Do you brush and floss on a regular basis? What about your breath –is it as lovely as a spring morning, or do women and children run screaming from you when you say hello?
Do your teeth and gums look like a hedgerow in the Highlands? Do you have issues when you eat or drink hot or cold food and beverages? Do your teeth hurt? Just face it – you may have temperamental teeth!
According to 1stDentist.com, millions of adults struggle with hypersensitive teeth, meaning they are sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, very sugary or acidic foods and drinks and vigorous tooth brushing. This kind of sensitivity is often called ‘dentin hypersensitivity’.
Dentin is the tissue that makes up the core of each tooth. Above the gum line, dentin is protected with a coating of enamel. Unfortunately, as enamel is worn away or decayed, dentin becomes exposed and receptive to sensations that cause painful nerve responses. This can also occur as the result of receding gums, a common symptom of gum disease.
So, what causes sensitive teeth? A number of things may be to blame. Over-zealous brushing with a firm bristled tooth brush or abrasive toothpaste can lead to dentin hypersensitivity, as can gum disease, which is the result of poor brushing and flossing habits. Your diet may also play a role, as frequent consumption of acidic foods and drinks can chemically dissolve tooth enamel. Finally, abnormal wear on tooth surfaces from chronic clenching or grinding of teeth, nail biting and chewing on hard objects can lead to sensitive teeth.
Help is at hand
If you’re already suffering from overly sensitive teeth, there are products that can help. Toothpaste designed for those with sensitive teeth can reduce the pain associated with the condition after only a few days of use. Also, be sure to stick with a soft-bristled toothbrush – hard toothbrushes will only exacerbate the problem. Brush and floss daily to maintain healthy gums and protect dentin from exposure.
How to prevent sensitive teeth
• Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste. Use small circular movements with a soft- to medium-bristled brush. Try to avoid brushing your teeth from side to side.
• Change your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if it becomes worn.
• Have sugary foods, and fizzy and acidic drinks less often. Try to have them only at mealtimes.
• If you grind your teeth, talk to your dentist about the possibility of having a mouth guard made to wear at night.
• If you are thinking about having your teeth bleached, discuss sensitivity with your dentist before starting treatment.
• Visit your dentist at least once a year for a check up.
There are many brands of toothpaste on the market made to help ease the pain of sensitive teeth. The toothpaste should be used twice a day to brush your teeth. It can also be rubbed onto the sensitive areas. These toothpastes can take anything from a few days to several weeks to take effect. Your dentist should be able to advise you on which type of toothpaste would be best for you, according to World Dental.org.
Also your dentist may recommend that you switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush, and brush teeth gently. The dentist may also recommend using a special toothpaste or mouthwash designed for sensitive teeth.
Some home remedies for sensitive teeth
If you develop sensitivity in one or more teeth, first see your dentist to determine the cause. Then, if your sensitivity is caused by simple enamel abrasion or by normal gum recession, try the following home remedies for relief:
Bring on the desensitising toothpaste. Unfortunately, widespread tooth sensitivity due to enamel abrasion or gum-line recession can’t be treated with dental fillings. Instead, try brushing with a desensitizing toothpaste, which you can buy over the counter. These special toothpastes contain ingredients that diminish sensitivity by filling channels (known as tubules) in the dentin.
Try putting some of the toothpaste on your finger or on a cotton swab and spreading it over the sensitive spots before you go to bed. Spit, but don’t rinse. Within a few weeks, your teeth should begin to feel less sensitive.
Try a fluoride rinse. Fluoride rinses, available without a prescription at your local pharmacy or in the dental section of grocery stores, can help decrease sensitivity, especially for people plagued with decay problems. Use it once a day. Swish it around in your mouth, then spit it out. Sometimes, people with sensitive teeth need a stronger fluoride rinse or gel than the ones available over the counter. For example, some treatments for gum disease, such as root planing (which reduces plaque), can leave sensitive teeth even more sensitive than usual. In such situations, dentists can apply a fluoride gel that helps relieve the problem.
Keep your teeth clean. Plaque, the white gummy substance that forms on teeth, produces an acid that irritates teeth, especially if your choppers are naturally sensitive. Wage a daily attack against plaque by brushing at least twice, preferably right after eating and especially before bed, and flossing at least once.
Use a soft toothbrush. Often, people actually cause tooth sensitivity by brushing with too much force and/or brushing with a hard-bristled brush, which can damage the protective tooth enamel. When the gum-line recedes (often as a natural part of the aging process), exposed dentin becomes even more vulnerable to toothbrush abrasion. Use a brush with the softest bristles you can find, and apply only a small amount of pressure when brushing (actually, a lighter touch also allows the bristles to move more freely and do their job more effectively than when you press too hard).
Stop snuffing. Chewing tobacco, also known as “dip” or “snuff,” is a popular habit in some groups, especially among many male teenagers. They mistakenly believe it’s less harmful than smoking cigarettes. However, in addition to causing mouth cancers, chewing tobacco causes the gums to recede, a major cause of gum sensitivity and decay. Just as there is no safe cigarette, there is no safe tobacco.
Remember, your oral hygiene is the key to overall health, as noted by numerous reliable sources and studies that have been done over the past several years. Your teeth, even if they are extremely sensitive or temperamental, are part of your physical makeup. Take care of them, and they will take care of you. So, be the person you were born to be – healthy, happy, and full of beautiful smiles.