Do you have teeth that ache when you drink something cold? Does the thought of eating ice cream make you wince? Does merely breathing in cold air send you through the roof with annoying pain?
Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that affects the majority of people at some point in their lives.
I have your 3 best options of sensitive teeth remedies recommended by dental professionals.
I would like to help you treat your sensitive teeth quickly and effectively so you don’t have to think twice about enjoying your favorite foods and drinks.
As a dental hygienist, I see this common problem on at least two-thirds of my patients. Sensitive teeth is a global oral health concern. It is reported to affect up to 98% of the adult population in various studies. Please read on for your go-to remedies for sensitive teeth.
Sensitive Teeth Causes
Another name for sensitive teeth is dentinal hypersensitivity. There are several reasons that teeth can become sensitive. I will discuss the most common reason first.
Teeth are made up of three main layers: the enamel layer which is the outer protective layer, the underlying dentin area surrounding the roots and the internal area of the tooth called the pulp. The inner dentin layer contains little channels or tubules that lead from the outside of the tooth to the internal pulp area.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, there are thousands of these microscopic channels that lead to the pulp of the tooth. These tubules can allow cold, heat and acidic substances to reach the nerve causing pain.
Normally the openings of these tubules are closed off. When something stimulates these tubules to open, a sensation is sent straight to the nerve of the tooth creating the sensitivity. The main reason why the openings of these tubules become open is due to receding gums (or gingival recession).
Receding gums happen when the margin of the gum tissue shrinks back or pulls away from the tooth exposing more of the root area (and more of the dentin). The most common cause for receding gums is from aggressive brushing.
By using the proper technique and the best electric toothbrush, you can minimize the recession caused by this type of over-brushing. Later in this article, I will explain the best home care tools and techniques used to prevent receding gums.
Other common causes for sensitive teeth include root exposure from gum disease and acid erosion (related to acid reflux disease or excessive exposure to acidic food and/or drinks). People who grind or clench their teeth may have more exposed root surfaces as well. Cracks or fractures in teeth as well as dental bleaching can also cause sensitive teeth.
How Does It Feel?
Simply having plaque accumulate along the gumline is enough to open the dentinal tubules. Perhaps you have brushed too fast and missed an area along the gumline. The bacterial plaque acts as a stimulus to open the channels that lead to the nerve.
This can be felt as a sharp, shooting pain or a dull toothache type sensation. It can be felt when the area is touched or simply when air hits the area. This sensation is usually described as painful and short in duration. The response to a stimulus varies from one person to the next depending on their pain tolerance.
Treatment for Sensitive Teeth
First, the cause of the hypersensitive dentin needs to established. Other issues need to be ruled out. These issues would include cavities or cracked and broken teeth.
If you see your dental professional, you will be examined and informed of your options available to relieve your sensitivity. There is no one treatment that works for all patients and sometimes a combination of treatment options is what will work best for you.
1. Reduce or remove dietary acids from your diet
Certain foods and drinks have a more acidic nature and can be erosive to your tooth structures. These food items would include lemons, oranges, grapefruit, limes and other citrus fruits. Similarly acidic are pickled foods and tomato products like salsa, ketchup and pasta sauce.
Acidic beverages include coffee, wine and soda. The pH level of these items is low and can cause tooth enamel to wear away. You may be especially surprised to learn what soda does to your teeth. When tooth enamel weakens in this way, demineralization occurs and the enamel can wear away. This allows the dentin to be exposed making tooth sensitivity likely.
Swishing with water after consuming acidic foods and drinks will help to neutralize the damaging effects to your teeth. Also, it is advised to wait at least 30 minutes after consumption of acidic foods and drinks before brushing. After an acid exposure, your enamel is in a weakened and softened state and can be easily worn away if you brush too soon.
2. Change your toothbrushing method
Aggressive brushing will increase your chances of causing sensitive teeth or dentinal hypersensitivity. Brushing too hard or with a hard bristled brush can cause the gumline to recede which exposes the sensitive root area.
Gum recession, root erosion and enamel erosion can all occur from a brushing style that is too aggressive. If too much pressure is applied while brushing, it can cause root and enamel erosion by slowly wearing away the protective enamel and root surface.
Always be sure to choose a soft or extra soft bristled toothbrush. Choosing an electric toothbrush will help prevent damage that can occur from your toothbrushing method.
Electric toothbrushes have built-in timers to allow you to brush for the dentist recommended 2-minute time frame.
They also have soft bristles and built-in pressure sensors that alert you when too much pressure is being applied. This will allow you to ease up on your pressure to prevent tooth damage from root and enamel erosion.
The latest technology allows for brushing and flossing at the same time. Waterpik has developed an innovative product that is changing the game for effective oral health products. The name of this product is Waterpik SonicFusion and it gives you the convenience of using a sonic electric toothbrush combined with the effective in-between cleaning of water flossing.
3.Use a recommended desensitizing product
An ideal desensitizing product for sensitive teeth is one that can be used at home and that is fast acting. Another quality to look for in an effective desensitizing product is one that will provide long-term effects. There are a number of ways a desensitizing product can be used ranging from a gel, mouthwash or toothpaste.
The most common and easiest to use is in the form of a toothpaste. Simply switching out your regular toothpaste for one that contains a desensitizing agent is recommended. Common ingredients that do this are stannous fluoride, arginine-calcium carbonate and potassium nitrate.
These products contain an ingredient that will block or close off the opening of the tubules that lead to the nerve of the tooth. Another common mechanism of action is by desensitizing the nerve. Products that desensitize the nerve include those with potassium nitrate.
These products usually require several weeks of use before achieving the desired results. Potassium nitrate is the active ingredient in the original sensitive toothpaste products and are now being replaced with more effective and faster acting products.
You will receive very effective relief from Sensodyne Rapid Relief toothpaste. This product is new to the market and uses stannous fluoride to block off the channels (tubules) that send the sensation of pain to the nerve.
Sensodyne Rapid Relief has a unique added ingredient that allows for additional bio-adhesion of the active ingredient. This forms a gel-like scaffold which helps to keep the stannous fluoride ions in place. This makes the active ingredient more effective immediately.
Traditional Sensodyne toothpaste uses potassium nitrate to reduce tooth sensitivity but Sensodyne Rapid Relief gives superior relief using stannous fluoride. Stannous fluoride has long been known for its beneficial use in treating and preventing cavities and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).
The Journal of The American Dental Association provides documentation on the effect of stannous fluoride toothpaste on dentinal hypersensitivity. The method of action for the desensitizing is by plugging or sealing the openings of the tubules that lead to the nerve of the tooth. In this regard, it blocks the sensation.
You should notice it will start working after brushing with it for the first time. It provides clinically proven relief in 3 days and provides long-lasting protection. Sensodyne is the #1 dentist recommended product for relief of sensitive teeth.
Another very effective product for sensitivity is Tom’s of Maine Natural Relief Sensitive toothpaste. This product does not contain fluoride but it is worth noting that Tom’s of Maine does provide a product containing fluoride if you prefer that. Tom’s of Maine Natural Rapid Relief Sensitive toothpaste contains arginine calcium carbonate. A 2016 meta-analysis found arginine containing toothpastes promote dentinal tubule closure and are effective in the treatment of dentinal hypersensitivity.
Studies from The National Society for Biotechnology Information (NSBI)have related studies showing the effectiveness of products containing 8% arginine calcium carbonate. Arginine bicarbonate is the salt of a naturally occurring amino acid. It is derived by a natural fermentation process of arginine. Combining arginine bicarbonate with calcium carbonate is what helps to seal open dental tubules to reduce the pain of tooth sensitivity
According to Dentistry IQ, “When combined with calcium, arginine has been clinically proven to be significantly effective in reducing caries and treating dentinal sensitivity. A common amino acid, arginine is naturally found in saliva and is metabolized by certain pH-raising oral bacteria that generate alkali instead of acids. In a normal and neutral oral pH environment, the addition of calcium aids in the remineralization process. Additionally, these two nutrients have been proven to plug and seal open dentinal tubules.”
Tom’s of Maine Rapid Relief Sensitive toothpaste shows promising results for the common issue of tooth sensitivity.
Another possible cause of sensitive teeth can be from clenching or grinding your teeth. You can learn more about how to prevent damage to your teeth from clenching or grinding.
The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism. Bruxism, or teeth grinding affects 10 to 15 percent of adults, according to the American Dental Association. When teeth grinding occurs frequently, it can cause harm to your teeth, dental health and overall health.
One of the most common side effects of teeth grinding are the worn areas along the gumline called abfractions. When we are constantly exerting force on our teeth, the tooth material along the gumline will eventually chip or flake away.
This will expose the underlying dentin tooth structure creating tooth sensitivity or dentinal hypersensitivity. The damage caused to your teeth is irreversible and measures to prevent it should be taken seriously. Learn more about bruxism from Wikipedia.
The most common way to prevent damage from teeth grinding is by wearing a mouth guard.
There are many choices of mouth guards. Please refer to a related article about your best options for teeth grinding.
Another common cause of tooth sensitivity is from use of teeth whitening products. By using dentist recommended products, you can safely whiten your teeth with minimal sensitivity. Any sensitivity caused by whitening treatments is usually reversed as soon as the whitening process is stopped.
However, this can still be an annoyance. You can brush with a desensitizing product mentioned earlier for 1-2 weeks prior to whitening to lessen the chance of tooth sensitivity from whitening treatments.
Tooth sensitivity is a very common problem that affects many people. When you have symptoms of this condition, you should be examined by your dental professional to rule out any dental problems.
Once dental concerns are ruled out, you likely will be diagnosed with dentinal hypersensitivity. Sensitive teeth remedies include these 3 things: reducing the acids in your diet, changing your brushing method and using a desensitizing agent.
By following these three recommended guidelines from your dental professional, you can successfully treat your sensitive teeth issues.
Because your daily habits may be contributing to your teeth sensitivity, you should take charge and consider changing these behaviors. If your behavior persists, the sensitivity could persist as well. In most cases, by implementing these sensitive teeth remedies, you can achieve your desired results.
If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a comment below.
The information that I provide on my website is not intended to take the place of medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Care and investigation should always be sought from an appropriate health care provider. I am not a doctor and do not claim to be one. I have created this site as a way to share information and experiences.