Navigating Sensitive SmilesBy: Joyce Kahng, DDS •November 15, 2023
Tooth sensitivity can catch us off guard and can make simple pleasures like enjoying a cold drink or savoring a hot meal challenging. While it’s a fleeting inconvenience for some, others grapple with it regularly—which suggests deeper underlying dental issues.
Below is information about the causes behind this discomfort and the best treatments for sensitive teeth. If you’ve ever hesitated before consuming a cold drink or a sweet snack because of tooth sensitivity, this guide is for you.
Sensitive teeth can be a result of various factors, each stemming from different aspects of our dental health:
Recognizing the root cause is the first step towards addressing and alleviating tooth sensitivity effectively.
For many facing the challenge of sensitive teeth, relief might be as close as their local drugstore. Here’s a rundown of widely available over-the-counter (OTC) solutions:
Desensitizing Toothpaste: Designed specifically for sensitive teeth, these toothpastes contain compounds that help block the nerve endings in the dentin, offering relief from pain. Regular use can gradually reduce sensitivity.
Fluoride Gels or Mouth Rinses: Fluoride strengthens tooth enamel, making it more resistant to acid attacks. Using fluoride-rich gels or rinses can help reduce tooth sensitivity and offer added protection against cavities.
OTC Dental Guards: For those who grind or clench their teeth at night, an over-the-counter dental guard can be a saving grace. It acts as a protective barrier, reducing the wear on the enamel and mitigating sensitivity.
Before committing to any OTC solution, it’s wise to consult with a dental professional to ensure the chosen remedy aligns with your specific needs and underlying causes.
When over-the-counter solutions don’t suffice, or when the root cause of sensitivity requires specialized attention, turning to professional dental treatments is advisable. Here’s an overview of what your dentist might recommend:
A step up from OTC fluoride products, these in-office treatments involve the application of concentrated fluoride gel, designed to strengthen enamel and reduce the passage of stimuli through the teeth—thereby diminishing sensitivity.
Particularly beneficial for exposed root surfaces, sealants are protective coatings applied to the teeth. They serve as a barrier, preventing external triggers from reaching the sensitive dentin or nerve.
If tooth decay or cavities are the culprits behind sensitivity, your dentist will address the issue by cleaning out the decayed portion and placing a filling. This restores the tooth’s structure and prevents further sensitivity from that site.
In cases where gum recession is significant, a small piece of tissue is taken from elsewhere in the mouth and attached to the affected site, covering exposed roots and reducing sensitivity.
For severe and persistent sensitivity where other treatments aren’t effective, a root canal might be recommended. It treats problems in the tooth’s soft core (dental pulp), eliminating the pain entirely.
Your dentist will guide you towards the best-suited treatment based on the underlying cause, ensuring long-term relief from sensitivity.
While professional treatments and over-the-counter solutions offer targeted relief, there are also simple steps and remedies you can adopt at home to manage and prevent tooth sensitivity:
Soft-bristle Toothbrushes: Opt for a toothbrush with soft bristles to prevent enamel erosion and gum recession. Moreover, adopting a gentle brushing technique can further protect your teeth and gums.
Avoiding Acidic Drinks and Foods: Foods and beverages like soda, wine, and citrus fruits can erode enamel over time. Moderating consumption and rinsing your mouth with water after intake can help.
Using a Straw: When drinking acidic or cold beverages, using a straw can minimize direct contact with your teeth, reducing the chances of triggering sensitivity.
Not Brushing Immediately After Consuming Acidic Foods/Drinks: Wait at least 30 minutes before brushing to allow enamel to remineralize and reduce the risk of abrasion.
Wearing a Mouth Guard: If you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, consider wearing a mouth guard at night to reduce wear on the enamel.
Incorporating these practices can go a long way in ensuring your teeth remain less sensitive and more resilient to everyday triggers.
Tooth sensitivity is a concern that shouldn’t be brushed aside, especially when it begins to interfere with daily life. If you experience discomfort that lingers for more than a few days or is particularly intense, it’s essential to seek expert advice. Similarly, if over-the-counter products don’t seem to bring about the desired relief, it could hint at a deeper underlying issue. Visible anomalies, such as holes in the teeth, unusual discoloration, or signs of cavities, necessitate a dentist’s evaluation. Additionally, receding gums, where the gums appear to be pulling away or exposing the tooth roots, signal that a dental check-up is imminent.
Sensitive teeth can be more than just a fleeting annoyance; they often signal the need for intervention. Through understanding its causes, recognizing when professional input is required, and adopting preventative measures, you can pave the way for a comfortable dental experience. Your smile is a testament to your oral health and well-being. Ensure it remains radiant and devoid of discomfort.
DOCTOR + FOUNDER