If you experience increased tooth sensitivity towards hot or cold foods, it is time to consult your dentist. Teeth sensitivity is a common problem and affects many people. It is most common in people aged between 20 and 40, although teens and old people above 70 may also experience sensitive teeth.
Sensitive teeth can have many underlying causes. It can range from a mild sensation of discomfort to severe discomfort for several hours. Apart from hot or cold foods, sweet and sour foods or even cold air can make the situation worse. To treat sensitive teeth, it is essential to identify the causative factor.
Protect the enamel
The enamel is an extremely hard substance that is present in the teeth. When the enamel is lost, the nerve endings of the teeth are exposed. This is what causes sensitive teeth. There could be several reasons for wearing down of the enamel layer.
Here are some ways to prevent damage to the enamel layer:
Brush gently and carefully: Applying excessive force while brushing or using a hard-bristled brush can cause the enamel to erode away. Brushing at the gum line can also cause damage to the enamel layer. You should use a brush with soft bristles and brush at a 45 degree angle to the gum line to prevent damage to the enamel layer.
Avoid acidic foods and drinks: Acidic foods can cause damage to the enamel layer. Therefore, it is best to avoid acidic foods and drinks such as soda, sour candy or orange juice.
Foods such as crunchy fruits and vegetables and dairy products moisten the mouth and reduce acidity and thereby help the enamel. Crunchy fruits and vegetables also gently scrub the teeth and remove plaque.
Green or black tea is beneficial for the teeth. Chewing gum also helps because it stimulates saliva production which washes the teeth and prevents damage to the enamel. It is not a good idea to brush your teeth immediately after taking acidic foods. Wait for an hour for the enamel layer to strengthen before brushing your teeth.
Don’t grind your teeth: Teeth grinding can damage the enamel over time. If stress is the underlying cause, address it first. Exercise, meditation and changes to your life style can help reduce stress. If that doesn’t show results, you dentist may suggest a splint or mouth guard to address the problem.
If the problem is severe, dental work to change the position of the teeth may be required. Your dentist may also prescribe a muscle relaxant.
Take a break from teeth whitening: Teeth whitening products can make your teeth sensitive. However, the increased sensitivity is temporary and will go away within a few days. If you experience teeth sensitivity after using a teeth whitening product, taking a break may help. However, if the problem is severe, you should consult your dentist to know if you should discontinue the product.
Why it is important to identify the root cause of sensitive teeth?
Sometimes, teeth sensitivity can be an indication of other conditions such as:
Gum disease: Sensitive teeth can also be an indication of gum disease. Gum disease is caused by bacteria growing in the mouth. Bacteria form a sticky layer on the teeth known as plaque. The bacteria breakdown sugars in the food and produce acids and toxins which affect the enamel layer of the teeth and irritate the tissues of the gums. This causes inflammation to the gums and makes them bleed easily. If proper oral hygiene is not maintained plaque can buildup and harden into calculus or tartar. Tartar irritates the gums even more. It can also cause the gums to pull away from the teeth.
Gum disease can result in the destruction of the bony support of the teeth. If not treated, it can have serious implications. To treat it, the dentist will perform a deep cleaning known as planing or scaling to remove the plaque or tartar below the gum line. Medication or surgery may also be needed.
Receding gums: If you are above the age of 40, it may be that your gums are shrinking, exposing the tooth roots. Since the roots don’t have the enamel layer, they are much more sensitive than other parts of the teeth. Naturally shrinking gums can be a serious and need to be treated.
If your gums appear to be shrinking, you should consult your dentist immediately. Receding gums can also be an indication of gum disease. In serious cases, a gum graft may be needed to treat receding gums. Gum graft involves moving gum tissue from other parts to cover the exposed area.
Chipped teeth: Chipped teeth can expose the root and cause increased sensitivity or pain. Chipped or cracked teeth can be treated by filling if the crack is small and doesn’t extend below the gum line. However, if crack is large or extends below the gum line, it may need to be extracted.
Treatment for sensitive teeth
Sensitive teeth can be treated in the following ways:
- Using toothpaste for sensitive teeth
- Fillings to cover exposed roots
- Fluoride gel
- Desensitizing pastes
- Root canal treatment
If you experience tooth sensitivity for longer periods, you should consult a dentist. Ignoring the problem can lead to other dental problems. It is also essential to follow proper oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing twice a day and using a medicated mouthwash can keep your teeth healthy and pain-free. You should also visit your dentist once in every six months.