By: Dr. Elizabeth Eggert
For people who struggle with sensitive teeth, eating or drinking anything too hot or cold can be uncomfortable. Sometimes, even brushing your teeth or using floss can be uncomfortable if you have sensitive teeth.
But what causes tooth sensitivity and will you ever be able to enjoy hot coffee or cold ice cream again?
Causes and Symptoms of Sensitive Teeth
Sensitive teeth are caused by enamel on the teeth that gets worn down. Enamel is the hard outer layer that protects the softer interior of your teeth. When the enamel gets worn down, the softer, more sensitive part of your teeth are exposed. When the dentin or dentin tubules that run to the nerves in your teeth are exposed to heat, cold, or pressure from chewing, the nerves get hyperactive and can send a jolt of pain through your mouth.
The things that most commonly wear down the enamel on your teeth are:
- Tooth decay
- Tooth erosion
- Tooth abrasion
- Excessive forces from tooth-on-tooth contact
- Cracked teeth
- Worn out enamel and fillings
- Exposed tooth roots
Tooth sensitivity is often caused by underlying tooth problems. By finding and fixing those problems, discomfort from sensitive teeth often resolves on its own. Some of the most common causes of sensitive teeth include:
- Infrequent brushing
- Overly aggressive brushing
- Gum recession
- Periodontal disease
- Clenching or grinding your teeth
- A dysfunctional bite
What to Do if You Have Sensitive Teeth
If you have mild tooth sensitivity, Dr. Elizabeth and Dr. Jeff can recommend a desensitizing toothpaste or prescription fluoride toothpaste to use at home. The ingredients in these toothpastes help prevent hot and cold sensations from reaching your mouth. Regular fluoride varnish treatments at our office can also help reduce pain.
There are also at-home remedies we found online, you could try these to get relief:
- Salt-water rinse: Add ¼ to ¾ teaspoon of salt to a glass of lukewarm water. Gargle the salt water twice daily for up to 30 seconds.
- Hydrogen peroxide rinse: Add two caps of 3% hydrogen peroxide to an equal amount of warm water, and swish in your mouth for up to 30 seconds. The mild antiseptic and disinfectant can help deal and prevent inflammation.
- Honey and warm water: Mix a spoonful of honey with warm water, and rinse your mouth with the mixture. Hone is an antibacterial agent that helps speed healing and reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
- Turmeric: Massage ground turmeric on your teeth and gums twice a day for pain relief. Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory treatment and enhances wound healing.
If you have severe tooth sensitivity, you may need more involved treatment to resolve your discomfort. When sensitivity is caused by decay or when teeth are worn or decayed, we may recommend a filling, crown, or bonding to fix the root issue. Also, if a dysfunctional bite is keeping the nerves of your teeth hyperactive, changing the tooth positions is an important part of the healing process.
Addressing the Underlying Issues That Cause Tooth Sensitivity
Another way to make huge improvements in relieving tooth sensitivity is to look for and treat underlying issues with your bite. By undergoing our records process, we can determine if improvements to how your teeth come together and how you chew can stop your tooth sensitivity – often for good!
One of the best ways to improve sensitive teeth is by developing healthy oral hygiene habits, including regular visits to the dentist. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth or Dr. Jeff, contact our office at 651-482-8412.