NOTHING RUINS A YUMMY scoop of ice cream faster than the jolt of pain from sensitive teeth. As many as one in eight people in the U.S. deal with tooth sensitivity, including kids! What causes it and what can we do to protect our teeth? As your South San Francisco dentist, we have some tips on preventing and managing tooth sensitivity, keep reading below.
Understanding Dental Anatomy
In a healthy tooth, there is the protective outer layer of enamel, then the porous, bony middle layer of dentin, and finally the pulp chamber at the center, which contains nerves and blood vessels. The way the nerves in the pulp chamber get sensory input (for things like pressure and temperature) is through the thousands of microscopic tubules that run through the dentin.
Too Much Sensory Input
When the protective enamel layer wears away, the tubules in the dentin become exposed, and the nerves suddenly get much more stimulation than they like. This is what makes enamel erosion one of the main causes of tooth sensitivity. Without enamel, the nerves get a nasty shock whenever anything too hot or cold, or even too sweet or sour, touches the outside of the tooth.
What Else Causes Sensitivity?
Root exposure from gum recession also leads to sensitivity. The enamel only covers the crown of the tooth, not the roots, which are protected by the gums. If the gums recede due to teeth grinding, overbrushing, or gum disease, it leaves the roots exposed. Cavities and tooth injuries can cause sensitivity as well.
Are you making these mistakes?
Fortunately for all of us, there are ways to fight back, even if our teeth are already sensitive. Here are some mistakes you could be making that bring on tooth sensitivity and what to do instead:
Using a hard bristled toothbrush or brushing too hard. Instead, use a soft-bristled brush and gentle brushing to help prevent enamel erosion or gum recession. We don’t actually need stiff bristles to clean our teeth effectively. What's more important is to brush and floss regularly, thoroughly and gently to protect your enamel from erosion.
Using regular toothpaste or those with abrasive teeth whitening. Most teeth whitening toothpaste use silica as an abrasive to rub off stains from surface but this can also wear down your tooth enamel in time increasing tooth sensitivity. They also contain peroxide as a bleaching agent that in time may cause sensitivity. Consider switching to a special toothpaste formulated for sensitive teeth. If you want to brighten your smile, our office uses a Nite White Teeth Whitening Home Kit that is effective and actually strengthens your teeth after use.
NOT using a fluoride mouthwash rinse. Adding a dedicated fluoride mouthwash after brushing can help restore mineral lost and strengthen your dental enamel.
Snacking on sugary and acidic drinks and food. Bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars from sweet treats and expel acids that wear down tooth enamel that causes tooth sensitivity and cavities. The acids that give the sour taste in candies also have the same effect on teeth. Practicing moderation or only eating sweets as a dessert during meals can help reduce. There also sugar-free candy at stores now that use xylitol for a teeth friendly alternative.
NOT managing teeth grinding. If you suffer from bruxism (teeth grinding), find a way to prevent it through stress relief, meditation and dietary changes. You can also ask us about getting a custom night guard made for you at your next dental visit. Night guards worn at night prevent your teeth from grinding together and wearing away your enamel.