On a hot summer day, it is common to find yourself seeking a cool refreshment to make you more comfortable in the heat. What is not as common is feeling a sharp pain through your teeth once you take a bite or sip of a cool treat. We aren’t talking about brain freezes–we are talking about sensitive teeth!
Tooth sensitivity is triggered by hot or cold temperatures, sweet or sour foods, and drinks, or deep cavities and fillings. When the protective layer of enamel on your teeth wears away and exposes the dentin layer of your teeth, sensitivity occurs due to the porous nature of dentin.
Diet- Acidic foods and beverages can also eat away at your enamel and make your teeth more prone to erosion. Rinse your mouth with water afterward and wait at least one hour after eating or drinking before brushing your teeth.
Hygiene Habits- Poor oral health habits such as not brushing properly or flossing may also cause plaque and bacteria to build up and break down your tooth’s enamel, weakening them and making them more susceptible to sensitivity. Over brushing is a common cause for tooth sensitivity as a hard bristle brush or firm hand can wear down on your enamel and expose porous surfaces that lead to your tooth’s nerves increasing sensitivity.
Grinding Your Teeth- Patients who grind their teeth may create small fractures in their teeth that may irritate nerves and increase sensitivity as well.
Oral Health Conditions- Receding gums can also expose those that are normally protected by your enamel and increase nerve sensitivity in your teeth. Tooth decay, cavities, or deep fillings that penetrate deeply close to the nerve may also cause irritation and the development of tooth sensitivity. Certain dental conditions may also increase your risk of tooth sensitivity such as overcrowding, crooked teeth, and misaligned bites.
Whitening Products- You may also increase your tooth sensitivity by using certain teeth whitening products or chemicals. The main ingredient in many whitening solutions is peroxide which can irritate your teeth’s nerves and lead to sensitivity.
Treating Tooth Sensitivity
Your treatment will depend on the cause and severity. If your pain is due to an orthodontic adjustment, an over-the-counter pain reliever will help to reduce pain until the discomfort subsides.
For those whose sensitivity is caused by poor hygiene habits, then switching toothbrushes and brushing patterns can provide a great deal of relief–a soft-bristle brush will help to keep your teeth clean without damaging the enamel or gums. Using toothpaste designed for those with sensitive teeth can also help offer relief. Patients should notice a difference after several weeks of normal usage. If your sensitivity is severe and persists for several days, we may recommend scheduling an appointment to rule out cavities or other dental conditions that may be creating tooth sensitivity.
Orthodontics and Sensitive Teeth
When undergoing orthodontic treatment, you may also experience sensitive teeth. During treatment, your teeth are slowly shifted into alignment by using braces, and after an adjustment, you may notice minor sensitivity and discomfort. Fortunately, this is temporary and should not last more than a day or two following your appointment. If you experience sensitive teeth longer or chronically, consult your orthodontist. We will be able to recommend further care or may suggest scheduling an appointment with your dentist to discuss additional treatment options.
Remember to keep your teeth clean by brushing around the brackets, bands, and wires as best as possible, and flossing as proper hygiene will help to reduce plaque buildup that can wear down enamel and lead to sensitive teeth. For some, Invisalign may be an option depending on your case for those with extremely sensitive teeth. This clear aligner provides a lower risk of irritation and allows for easier cleaning.
Having sensitive teeth shouldn’t stop you from enjoying life to the fullest or prevent you from receiving orthodontic treatment. For more information on orthodontics and how we can help with sensitive teeth or to schedule an appointment, contact Dr. L’Tanya Joy Bailey, DDS today.