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Brad M. Freedman, DDS & Associates
4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

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Understanding Sensitive Teeth

When you eat or drink acidic foods or icy beverages, do your teeth hurt? If so, you may have sensitive teeth. Some people are also sensitive to cold air that contacts their teeth. Although sensitive teeth are prevalent now, they’re easily treatable and easy to prevent through a few modifications in your oral hygiene habits.

If you have sensitive teeth, you know how miserable they can make you. You may be unable to eat the foods you enjoy and participate in the activities you enjoy. They can also be excruciatingly painful. Fortunately, understanding the treatments for sensitive teeth and the factors that cause them can help you eliminate their pain and resume a lifestyle you enjoy.

Usually, sensitive teeth occur due to erosion of the tooth enamel. It becomes too thin to adequately protect your teeth from the substances that cause pain, so all you can do is avoid those substances. Other causes include cracked or chipped teeth that can allow decay to enter the tooth’s interior and cause problems. Aggressive brushing, gum disease, and receding gums can also allow foreign substances to come into contact with the tooth nerves and cause pain.

The best treatment for your sensitive teeth will depend on the factors that cause the sensitivity. If you have a cracked or chipped tooth, then seeking immediate dental treatment can alleviate the pain. A filling or crown can cover the tooth and prevent substances from reaching the nerves. If you have receding gums due to gum disease, then your dentist may suggest a gum graft that will cover the nerve and prevent pain. At this point, they may also treat your gum disease and the inflammation that causes it. If you have gum disease, then seek dental treatment without delay. When gingivitis is treated early, it’s curable. If you wait, though, it can ultimately cause you to lose all your teeth.

Sometimes, fluoride treatments can eliminate tooth sensitivity. The fluoride can be applied to selected areas of the teeth, it can be applied to all the teeth, or it can be absorbed from toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride. If none of these effectively stop the pain of sensitive teeth, then your dentist may recommend a root canal and crown. The root canal will remove the root and nerves, and the crown will restore the tooth to functionality.

Why Do I Have Sensitive Teeth?

There are several causes of sensitive teeth, including:

  1. Overly aggressive brushing habits or using a toothbrush with very firm bristles.
  2. Alcohol or other ingredients in your mouthwash that cause pain in your sensitive teeth. Try switching to a mouthwash formulated for sensitive teeth, but don’t stop using mouthwash, which should be an integral part of your oral hygiene routine.
  3. Recent dental procedures can cause all your teeth to be sensitive, but it shouldn’t last for more than a few days. If it does, then contact your dentist because you may have an infection.
  4. You have cracked or chipped teeth that are allowing the nerves to be exposed. Your dentist can provide a filling or crown to eliminate the problem.
  5. Your gums are receding because of gingivitis. If you have gum disease, it should be treated without delay. It’s the major cause of tooth loss in the U.S. even though it’s completely preventable, and when caught early, it’s completely curable.
  6. Bruxism, or grinding your teeth at night, is very damaging to your teeth. If you have bruxism, then get a custom nightguard from your dentist. Don’t get one from the corner pharmacy, however, because it won’t fit well, it may fall out, it won’t be comfortable, and you’ll be wasting your money.
  7. If consuming acidic foods or beverages cause tooth pain, then avoid citrus fruits and beverages, pickles, tomatoes, and other acidic beverages.
  8. If you notice decay around an old filling, you may need to replace it. When a filling fails, it can fracture or leak and allow bacteria to enter. Usually, a simple replacement will resolve the problem.
  9. Tooth-whitening products can often aggravate sensitive teeth and cause pain. If you use tooth-whitening products, look for those formulated for sensitive teeth. If you can, get replacements that also contain fluoride.

Tooth sensitivity can also occur due to serious underlying health issues, so make an appointment with your dentist to rule out this possibility. Don’t ignore your sensitive teeth, however. Find the cause and the cure so that you can resume enjoying your pain-free life.

How Can I Help My Sensitive Teeth?

Several simple tips can help reduce the pain from your sensitive teeth, such as:

  • Avoid foods that cause pain, such as lemons, oranges, orange juice, and tomatoes.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle pressure when brushing, and use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth.
  • Be dedicated to your dental hygiene routine and don’t skip it, even when you’re short on time, or you’re exhausted.
  • Use dental products that contain fluoride so you can strengthen your tooth enamel when you brush and use mouthwash.
  • If you have bruxism, then invest in a custom mouthguard from your dentist. Don’t purchase one from the local pharmacy because it won’t fit well, it may fall out, and it will be uncomfortable, so you probably won’t wear it.
  • Make sure you have regular dental checkups. Annual checkups will suffice, but twice-yearly checkups are better.

You don’t need to suffer from the pain and inconvenience of sensitive teeth. Your dentist can provide recommendations that will alleviate the pain until the issue is resolved, so make sure to have regular dental checkups.

In the meantime, avoid the foods, beverages, and activities that cause pain to flare up in your sensitive teeth. If you consume an acidic food or beverage, rinse your mouth thoroughly with plain water afterward to rinse the acid from your teeth.

What Should You Talk to Your Dentist About?

The following tips can help you address your sensitive teeth with your dentist:

  1. Talk to your dentist about fluoride treatments to strengthen your tooth enamel. Fluoride can be absorbed through dental products, it can be topically applied to specific areas, or it can be topically applied to the entire surfaces of your teeth.
  2. Talk to your dentist about desensitizing toothpaste. It may require a prescription, but it can reduce your tooth pain. Rather than having a mild formulation that won’t cause pain, desensitizing toothpaste reduces the pain signals from your tooth nerve to the brain. You should notice an improvement in a few days.
  3. If receding gums are the cause of your sensitive teeth, your dentist may perform a gum graft that will cover the exposed root and nerve.
    Don’t continue to suffer from the pain and inconvenience of sensitive teeth. Remedies are available that can enable you to resume enjoying your life without dental pain.

Practice good oral hygiene daily and include regular dental checkups. With proper care and maintenance, your teeth can last for a lifetime, and you won’t need false teeth or implants.

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Brad M. Freedman, DDS & Associates

4604-D Pinecrest Office Park Dr, Alexandria, VA 22312

(703) 940-1886

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