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Understanding and Managing Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth can make eating and drinking hot, cold, sweet, or sour foods uncomfortable and even painful. This sensitivity can be caused by a variety of factors, including gum recession, worn tooth enamel, and tooth decay. If you're experiencing sensitive teeth, it's important to understand the causes and take steps to manage the sensitivity.

The main causes of sensitive teeth include:

  • Gum recession: When the gum surrounding your teeth wears, the root of your teeth is exposed. Unlike the tooth which is covered by the protective enamel layer, the root is covered by the dentin. This layer is porous allowing hot and cold to be felt much more freely and therefore causing tooth sensitivity.

  • Worn tooth: Over time, the tooth enamel can wear away, exposing the sensitive layer of dentin undernearth. Once the protective enamel layer is removed, the tooth becomes sensitive to hot and cold. The most common causes are brushing too hard, grinding your teeth, or consuming acidic foods (ie. soda).

  • Tooth decay: A cavity, also known as tooth decay can expose the sensitive layer of dentin, leading to sensitivity.

  • Cracks or chips in your teeth: If you have cracks or chips in your teeth, food particles and bacteria can get inside, leading to sensitivity.

The main ways to managing sensitive teeth include:

  • Use a fluoride toothpaste: The most commonly recommended tooth paste by dentists is Sensodyne. It is specifically designed for sensitive teeth. Otherwise, a fluoride rich toothpaste is key, since fluoride blocks the little holes in the dentin, and decreases tooth sensitivity. If you obtain relieve with a certain toothpaste, stick with it! We recommend to continue using it in order for the effect not to wear off. At your routine dental visit, your dentist may recommend to get fluoride treatment to strengthen your tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity.

  • Brush gently: Brush your teeth gently to avoid wearing down the enamel and gums. Generally, patients think the harder they brush, the better they clean their teeth. That is a MYTH! Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid damaging your teeth and gums.

  • Avoid acidic foods: Limit your consumption of acidic foods and drinks, such as citrus fruits, sports drinks or even soda, as they can wear away your tooth enamel.

  • Drink plenty of water: Drinking water can help rinse away food particles and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, therefore preventing tooth decay. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.

  • Wear a nightguard: If you grind or clench your teeth at night, wearing a nightguard can protect your tooth, decrease your chances of tooth fracture, tooth wear and reduce sensitivity.

Most patients present to our office with some level of tooth sensitivity. It is one of the most common concerns patients have. Depending on the level of sensitivity, some avoid eating ice-cream or even drinking cold drinks. Teeth sensitivity can be quite painful and uncomfortable. It is important to discuss it with your dentist to determine the cause of it and best way to manage it.


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