When the protective enamel of your teeth wears down, the layer of dentin beneath the enamel is exposed. Dentin can also be exposed on the surface of a tooth root when the gums covering the root recede. Dentin is made up of thousands of tiny hollow tubes, or “tubules.” Each tubule in the dentin connects to a nerve ending within the center, or “pulp,” of the tooth. The nerves connected to tubules are very sensitive, because they’re not meant to be exposed to stimuli directly. When hot and cold stimuli pass through exposed tubules, they reach the sensitive nerves and trigger temperature sensitivity pain.
Simply put, temperature-sensitive teeth happen when something wears away at the material (gums or enamel) covering the teeth. Protecting against temperature sensitivity means making sure your enamel stays strong and your gums stay healthy. That’s all well and good, but what if you already have sensitive teeth? Don’t panic! There are a few easy ways to treat sensitive teeth quickly and effectively. Next time you’re having trouble with hot or cold sensitivity, try any (or preferably all) of these ideas.
Use desensitizing toothpaste
Toothpastes designed to relieve temperature sensitivity pains are available wherever toothpaste is sold. These toothpastes use various active ingredients to block the dentinal tubules, which block sensations from reaching the nerve. Different active ingredients vary in how well they work for different individuals. If one desensitizing toothpaste isn’t providing the relief you’re seeking, try another one with a different active ingredient. If you try multiple toothpastes and none of them help, ask your dentist about prescription-only desensitizing toothpastes.
Desensitizing toothpastes need to work on the exposed tooth surface for a while to work. Don’t worry if yours doesn’t work right away. Use them every time you brush at first, then at least once per day once you get relief. For the most effective results, don’t rinse out your mouth after brushing. Instead, spit thoroughly and let the toothpaste sit on your teeth for 30 minutes. Keep in mind that desensitizing toothpastes don’t restore your enamel or gums; they aren’t a “cure”. If you stop using desensitizing toothpaste when you stop having symptoms, you might have problems again later.
Change your brushing
We see it all the time. People scrub away on their teeth so hard that they actually beat down their enamel. It’s so unfair: you’re just trying to take good care of your teeth, and tooth sensitivity pain is your only reward. Well, it’s not too late to adjust your technique and stop that pain in its tracks.
First, look at your brush. You should really only use a toothbrush for about three months before replacing it. Any longer and the bristles might start to become ineffective. Next, how are you brushing? Ideally, you should place the bristles onto the area where your gums meet your teeth at a 45 degree angle. Make small, gentle circles, letting the bristles glide lightly over the surface of the teeth and gum line. You shouldn’t saw away at your teeth by smashing the bristles up and down or side to side over them. Next time your teeth feel sensitive, try taking it a little easier during your brushing routine. You’ll be surprised how much it helps!
Use a mouthguard
Teeth grinding (bruxism) is a surprisingly common condition where people unconsciously grind their teeth together. One particularly common variety, sleep bruxism, only happens while the unwitting tooth grinder sleeps! Sleep bruxism may be triggered by anxiety, sleep disorders, or stress, but it can happen without a specific cause, too. Severe grinding wears away at the enamel of teeth, exposing the dentin within and triggering temperature sensitivity.
To figure out if you grind your teeth at night, look for symptoms beyond just the temperature sensitivity. Depending on the severity of the grinding, you might have neck, jaw, or tooth pain after waking up. You could also have a temple-based headache, or you might even have trouble opening and closing your jaw. If you’re worried you have bruxism, consider investing in a nightguard to wear while you sleep. This night guard will make sure you aren’t grinding your teeth together and damaging the enamel.
Avoid the acid
Acidic foods and drinks are your enamel’s worst enemy. Soda, fruit juice, tomato sauce, and many other acidic foods leave behind acid after you eat them. This acid works away at the layers of enamel protecting dentin. If it’s left alone too long, it could eventually affect the temperature-sensitive dentin. The more worn down your enamel is already, the more vulnerable it is to acidic breakdown.
Review your eating and drinking habits. How often do you consume particularly acidic food or beverages, such as soda? How long do you let that acid rest on your teeth before brushing it off? Do you ever go to sleep without brushing your teeth? The longer you let acid sit, the more damage it will do to your enamel. When your teeth feel sensitive, consider cutting down on highly-acidic foods. If you can’t, then make sure you brush your teeth at least twice a day. Remember not to brush too hard!
Temperature sensitivity is often easy to treat and easier to prevent. Unfortunately, the treatment doesn’t reverse the damage that’s been done to the tooth or gums. Enamel and gum tissue don’t grow back on their own.
If you get tired of treating your persistent tooth sensitivity and want a more permanent solution, give ImmediaDent a call. We’re ready to fix your sensitivity problems–really fix them– anytime from 9am to 9pm, seven days a week. Just come on in and let us fix your problem fast!