Do you wince at the thought of drinking a cold glass of water? Shy away from that tasty ice cream that would be so refreshing on a hot day? Is it because of your teeth? You are aren’t alone many people suffer from tooth sensitivity. In fact, some studies concluded that over 50% of the population suffers from notable sensitivity. Your tenderness can be caused by many things from acidic foods to even toothpaste.
You don’t have to put up with the discomfort anymore. There are things you can do to lessen tooth sensitivity while also improving your dental health, says Edward L. Loev, DMD, a Cosmetic Dentist in San Francisco’s Union Square area.
We have put together a list of the 10 most common reasons for this annoying condition and some tips on how to relieve it.
- Harder is not better! Be gentle to your teeth and gums and use a soft-bristle toothbrush. Brushing hard does not clean better. In fact, over time hard handed brushing can wear down the protective layers of your teeth and expose microscopic dentinal tubules that lead to the nerves of your teeth. When these tubules are exposed to extreme temperatures (hot or cold), acidic or sweet foods, tooth sensitivity and discomfort can result. The easiest solution to this problem it to be gentle when you brush and make sure that the bristles of your toothbrush; whether traditional or electric are soft.
- You eat acidic foods. When tubules are exposed so are the nerves of your teeth. We are huge fans of citrus fruit, salads (with vinaigrette) and what’s better then biting into a juicy pickle when enjoying a deli sandwich? Unfortunately, when nerves are exposed none of the aforementioned foods are such a treat. The acids contained in them can cause tooth discomfort and are best avoided or at least limited until the sensitivity is brought under control.
- You wake up with a tight neck, jaw and headache…You’re probably a tooth-grinder. Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in your body. However, repeated grinding and clenching of teeth can wear down your tooth enamel. By doing so, you expose the dentin, or the middle layer of the tooth, which contains, yes, you guessed dentinal tubules. In addition to causing tooth sensitivity grinding and clenching teeth can cause tooth breakage and gum recession so talk to your dentist about getting a mouth guard to protect your smile. The bite guards that are custom made by a dentist are more expensive than those purchased from a drugstore but they are also longer lasting, more comfortable and smaller says San Francisco dentist Dr. Loev. However, if you can’t get a professional guard then please at least protect your teeth and mouth with what you can get.
- You want sparkling white teeth but you don’t want to have professional teeth whitening done so you brush with tooth-whitening toothpaste. Your teeth are now somewhat lighter and brighter but nobody sees them because the cold air stings when you smile. Sound familiar? Many manufacturers add tooth-whitening chemicals to their toothpaste formulas, many people are sensitive to these chemicals and experience lots of sensitivity. We used to suggest that patients just stop using toothpaste with whitening agents when they experienced this but recently Sensodyne the go-to over the counter toothpaste of sensitive teeth launched a reduced sensitivity whitening formula. We haven’t seen the whitening results yet but feel confident that the Sensodyne brand will at least help with the sensitivity
- You love the burn. Just kidding, we have a patient that has been in our care for many years and she loves the feeling that Listerine gives her after she has had treatment. She says” If we are all done just give me the burn!” Ironically, the alcohol and chemicals that are contained in mouth wash, like whitening toothpaste can cause sensitivity, especially if your dentin’s exposed. If you experience sensitivity to traditional and/or whitening mouth wash, try neutral fluoride rinses or simply skip the rinse and be more diligent about flossing and brushing your teeth. Some studies have even shown that excessive use of some mouth washes actually makes teeth more yellow.
- You’ve got Periodontal disease. Studies have shown that between 60% and 98% of people with periodontal disease have tooth sensitivity. Periodontal disease otherwise referred to as gum disease can cause many oral and systemic problems. One part of gum disease is receding gums. This ailment is not only due to gum disease it happens as we age as well. If gum disease is causing your sensitivity talk to your dentist. We want our patients to be healthy and happy says Dr. Loev. I think of myself as the Quarterback, together as a team we can design a “play” that improves your oral and overall health and reduces and/or eliminates the tooth sensitivity caused by your individual problem.
- You have excessive plaque and maybe have seen a dentist for a professional cleaning and check-up for a while. Excessive plaque buildup can cause tooth enamel to wear away. Even if you are a fantastic brusher and flosser professional dental cleanings can go places that you just can’t with floss and brush. Again, your teeth can become more sensitive as they lose protection provided by the enamel. The solution is to practice good daily dental care and visit your dentist for cleanings at least every six months — and for some of us more frequently.
- You’ve recently had a dental procedure. It’s common to experience some sensitivity after a root canal, filling, extraction, or the placement of a crown. If symptoms don’t disappear after a short time, call your dentist and tell them your symptoms. In many cases, more time is the solution but sometimes it could be a sign of infection or that you need an adjustment.
- You have a crack in your tooth. Generally a cracked tooth will cause symptoms beyond mere sensitivity. However, sometimes something feels a bit funny and uncomfortable and you don’t even know that you have a chip and or crack. All you feel is sensitivity. Talk to your dentist about cracks, and chips but also if a tooth or area of your mouth feels “funny” or strange. Your dentist will examine the area and maybe take an x-ray if nothing is visible to the naked eye. Once the problem is found it can usually be easily fixed with a crown, filling or in some cases extraction.
- There is decay around the edges of fillings. Fillings age just as we do. Amalgam, silver fillings expand and contract when exposed to high and low temperatures causing your tooth to expand and contract. Just like the waist bank of your favorite cozy pants overtime it loses its elasticity and no longer fits. This can cause fractures and leaks around the areas were the tooth and filling material meet allowing bacteria to enter and cause decay and in some cases even reach the nerves. Margins or edges of tooth colored fillings can break down too over time. Regular dental check-ups allow dentists and hygienists to monitor all of your teeth and fillings and if margins are beginning to breakdown it can be addressed before it leads to larger problems. Fillings can easily be replaced so reach-out to your dental provider if you have many old fillings they could be causing your sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity is treatable. In fact, you might find that using toothpaste specifically made for sensitive teeth like Sensodyne helps, Dr. Loev says. Over the counter sensitivity toothpaste coupled with the tips that we listed are very helpful for many but not for all so talk to your dentist if discomfort persists and/or your tooth sensitivity is extreme. A simple dental office visit and some dental sleuthing can generally discover the problem and solve it.
Cosmetic Dentist Dr. Edward L. Loev, DMD has been practicing dentistry in his Downtown San Francisco dental office for over 40 years. He has surrounded himself with an amazing team of individuals who are committed to patient care and service. Call them today at 415-392-2072 to set-up a complimentary cosmetic consultation or even just a new patient visit if you are in need/want of a new dentist.