Expert Tips for Managing Sensitive Teeth: Causes and Solutions

The pain in your front teeth when drinking cold water was sharp and intense, something you hadn’t experienced before. You became concerned when it happened again. What now?

You may be experiencing the effects of sensitive teeth. The pain varies from shooting pain to mild discomfort and usually happens after eating or drinking something hot or cold. The good news is that tooth sensitivity is a warning that things are not quite right with your teeth. With the help of your dentist, the source of the problem can be identified and managed before serious damage is done.

In this article, we will explain why teeth become sensitive and provide some tips for sensitive teeth that can help deal with the problem.


The Structure of the Teeth

First, let’s break down the structure of the teeth themselves. The periodontal ligament and the cementum connect the teeth to the tooth sockets and anchor them to the jaw. The ligament contains connective tissue and collagen fibers, allowing the teeth to withstand the great pressure put on them while we chew.

Understanding the different parts that make up your teeth can help when it comes to understanding tooth sensitivity and why it happens. A tooth has three main parts:

The Enamel

The enamel is the strong outer layer of a tooth. It keeps the inside of the tooth safe from both damage and staining.


The Cementum

The cementum is a specialized calcified substance covering the root of a tooth and helps attach the teeth to the jaws.


The Dentine

The dentine is tissue in the middle of your teeth, behind the cementum and enamel and it takes up a large portion of the tooth structure. Several tiny holes are run through the dentine to the tooth’s nerve. 

So, what happens within this structure to cause your teeth to become sensitive? Read on to find out!


What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

A number of things can cause sensitive teeth. The only way to determine exactly what the cause is in your case is to have your dentist examine your teeth. In the meantime, here are some common causes of sensitive teeth:

  • Excessive brushing or brushing too hard
  • Tooth decay and cavities due to a lack of proper oral hygiene
  • Certain foods, such as acidic, sweet, citric juices and sports drinks
  • Tooth whitening treatment
  • Gum recession or gum disease
  • Recent dental treatments
  • Tooth grinding
  • Cold climate
  • Sinus issues
  • Cracked teeth
  • Recent dental procedures
  • Age (Getting into your senior years)
  • Plaque buildup
  • A temporomandibular disorder (TMD) of the jaw muscles, temporomandibular joint (TMJ), and/or nerves associated with chronic facial pain

Schedule an appointment with your dentist if you experience tooth sensitivity. They will determine the cause of your pain and recommend one or more of the following methods of eliminating and controlling it.


Tips for Managing Sensitive Teeth

Teeth sensitivity can be a real pain, but there are ways to manage it and enjoy your favorite foods again. Here are some tips for sensitive teeth:

Use a Toothpaste Specifically for Sensitive Teeth

A quality desensitizing toothpaste uses stannous fluoride and potassium nitrate to protect the tooth’s nerves from exposure. Your dentist can recommend the best product for your situation.


Avoid Foods That Aggravate the Sensitivity

Acidic foods or drinks like citrus, pickled foods, dried fruits, coffee, sports drinks, and carbonated beverages should be avoided. These can erode the enamel of the teeth and expose the nerves and dentine. Try and focus on nutrient-rich foods and drinks that can help optimize the health of your teeth and gums.


Use a Toothbrush With Soft Bristles

Anything other than a soft-bristled toothbrush can wear away the enamel and dentine of your teeth over time. Opt for a toothbrush that will be gentle on your mouth.


Use Fluoride Products and Choose Foods With Fluoride

Fluoride products for your teeth have several benefits. Fluoride protects your teeth against cavities as well as sensitivity and is available in a variety of desensitizing products, including toothpaste. You can also get fluoride naturally through grapes, spinach, teas, and potatoes. 


Make Your Own Saltwater Mouthwash

Salt acts as an antiseptic that kills the bacteria that may be causing tooth sensitivity! Mix 8 ounces of warm water and 1 teaspoon of salt, but if the saltwater rinse stings, decrease the salt to a 1/2 teaspoon. Gently swish the solution around your mouth for 15-20 seconds then spit it out. Don’t swallow salt water!

Try Oil Pulling

Oil pulling involves swishing an edible oil, such as sesame or coconut oil, in the mouth for a set amount of time before spitting it out. It sanitizes your mouth, moisturizes the gums, increases saliva production, and pulls out harmful bacteria and toxins. All of these benefits can help reduce tooth sensitivity. 

Swish and swirl one tablespoon of oil for 10 to 12 minutes before spitting it out. The oil will become thinner and develop a milky white color during the oil pulling process.

Make sure not to swallow the oil as it can cause digestive upset. And spit the oil into the toilet instead of the sink to prevent clogged pipes.


Use a Night Mouthguard

The enamel on your teeth can be worn down if you grind your teeth at night. The tooth nerve becomes exposed and sensitive. Most people who grind their teeth don’t know they do it, so it’s worth a try if you experience sensitivity. Your dentist can custom-fit a night mouthguard for you to wear to protect your teeth.


Be Willing to Try Coating or Varnishing the Teeth

There are dental treatments your dentist can offer for tooth sensitivity if other solutions are not helping. Dental coating or varnishing adds a layer of protection to your teeth that will reduce sensitivity. Discuss these treatments with your dentist if other methods don’t work.


Tooth Sensitivity Can Be Managed & You Can Be Pain-Free Again!

When you have sensitive teeth, activities like brushing, eating, and drinking can cause sharp, temporary pain in your teeth. Sensitive teeth are often the result of worn tooth enamel or exposed tooth roots. Sometimes, though, tooth pain is caused by other problems, like a cavity, a cracked or chipped tooth, a worn filling, or gum disease.

If you’re bothered by sensitive teeth, visit your dentist. They can identify the underlying causes of your tooth pain and help provide some relief.

Here at Wilmington Dental Associates, we offer a variety of treatments and dental care services for both adults and children, including helping relieve pain caused by tooth sensitivity. We take our responsibility to each patient seriously and look forward to helping you deal with this issue. 

Contact us today with any questions you may have or to schedule an appointment!

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