We all know the flash of pain that you feel when something hot or cold hits and shocks your teeth. The wind might even hurt them. You might be using a sensitive toothpaste, like Sensodyne, but your teeth have still begun to hurt recently. I’ve heard people claim that they have “sensitive teeth” as though it’s hereditary, but in reality we have a lot of power to stop it from happening.
Causes of Tooth Sensitivity to Hot & Cold
It may helpful to understand the basics of why this is happening to you.
Enamel is the clear, outside part of your teeth that keeps them solid, insulated and pain-free. It protects all of the normally visible parts of your teeth. When your gums start to recede or the enamel wears and gets thinner, the layer under your teeth starts to peek through, called dentin. Dentin is a bone-like substance that forms the majority of each of your teeth. Sensitivity occurs when the dentin is exposed to hot and cold, and the sensation is carried through to the nerve endings causing pain and sensitivity.
There are a few habits many of us may have that cause tooth sensitivity like drinking and eating acidic foods, teeth grinding and brushing too hard with a tooth brush regularly. If you're experiencing sensitivity in just one tooth, it may be cracked or affected by a cavity, requiring dental treatment. If you feel pain in a tooth that has been filled and you think that it can’t be fixed, think again. Refilling a tooth that has had a cavity is a common procedure for dentists, and it often corrects the tooth sensitivity.
How to Fix Sensitive Teeth
Get a Cleaning
A build-up of plaque on your teeth is often the culprit to the start of pain, periodontal disease, and gingivitis. It’s not only bad for enamel, but it can function as an irritant. Having plaque built up on your teeth for too long can begin to push your gums away from teeth and eliminate that protective barrier for your dentin. When there’s an excess of plaque in your mouth, hot and cold drinks as well as a breeze have a chance to attack and hurt your teeth. The pain in your mouth might just be solved by scheduling that overdue cleaning.
Brush Gently (or Get a Soft Bristle Brush)
We know how good it feels to give your teeth a rough cleaning with a good brush, but this quickly wears down your enamel. When you use a hard-bristled brush, your gums may break away from the root of the tooth and lead to gum recession.
Avoid Abrasive Mouthwash & Toothpaste
Using mouthwash everyday may seem like a good idea, but unless you’re using the right type, you could be hurting your teeth. Acids are commonly used in mouthwash, and frequent use can hurt enamel. Make sure the next mouthwash you buy is a neutral fluoride mouthwash.
Many types of whitening toothpastes are also overpowering, and frequent use may be dangerous. They are designed to remove stains, but are often packed with abrasive chemicals. They seem to remove dirt, but a toothpaste that is strong enough to remove enamel would be better replaced with a gentler one like Sensodyne.
Avoid Acidic Foods
Acidic foods are known for their incredible ability to weaken our enamel. Despite that, many of us still drink soda and coffee on a regular basis. These kinds of drinks, as well as citrus fruits and many vegetables, are a root cause for damaging our enamel. If you want to learn more about the acidity of what you’re drinking or find healthier alternatives, take a look at our blog post about acidity in drinks.
Another habit that can chip away at the enamel of your teeth is being stressed. When you’re overwhelmed with stress, your cortisol levels increase and you might start grinding your teeth. Bruxism, or grinding your teeth, grinds away enamel and might leave some of your dentin vulnerable. If you don’t have time to relax or find it difficult to eliminate some of the stress, you can get a mouth guard to protect those pearly whites.
Keep these details in mind when talking to your dentist. Make sure to let him or her know that you've been experiencing sensitivity, and they can provide the best action plan to solve it.