It’s the height of summer and you’re wandering around with your family or friends enjoying the sunshine, when someone suggests stopping for an ice cream. Of course everyone agrees that ice cream will be the perfect addition to a hot summer’s day and you find a parlor nearby. You pick out a flavor—even deciding to go for an extra scoop—and step back outside ready to peacefully enjoy your frozen treat. But the second you take your first bite, a searing pain shoots through your teeth and it seems to take over your whole head. Everyone else eats their cones happily, but your sensitive teeth have ruined your day once again. Why do we experience tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, sweet, or acidic foods? Does everyone suffer from this phenomenon or just an unlucky few? If you’ve found your teeth to be overly sensitive, read on to learn more about what’s to blame and how to deal with this inconvenience.
How did my teeth become sensitive?
There are a few factors that may be at play with sensitive teeth. Damage to or thinning of enamel—the protective layer over our teeth—can cause the more sensitive layers of dentin to become exposed. Receding gums can also be a factor in tooth sensitivity, as gum reduction allows for the highly sensitive root of the tooth to become exposed. Explanations for enamel or gum erosion include:
- Using a medium or hard bristled toothbrush can actually wear down enamel and the gums, exasperating the depletion of enamel and gum tissue.
- Indulging in highly acidic foods and drinks will wear down the protective tissues of the mouth over time.
- Acid reflux or heartburn increases the amount of harmful acid in the mouth, slowly wearing down enamel.
- General decay or loose fillings can lead to dentin being exposed and increased sensitivity.
- Grinding your teeth, either while you sleep at night or as a nervous habit, can erode enamel and expose the sensitive underlayers of your teeth.
- Brushing too hard can be a counterintuitive issue for many people. While instinct may tell us the scrub our teeth fiercely, it is actually best to use a gentle grip when brushing your teeth to help preserve enamel and keep your gums from receding.
How can I prevent sensitivity?
The best defense against sensitivity is keeping up a strict oral hygiene regimen. Brushing twice a day—first thing in the morning and after your last meal at night—will help clear food debris, plaque, and bacteria and lessen the likelihood of cavities. Using a toothpaste and mouthwash with fluoride—a natural mineral that helps strengthen enamel—will help your teeth stay strong against enamel depletion. Flossing is also vitally important in your fight against sensitivity, as flossing removes food debris, fights plaque along the gumline, and is proven to help reduce the intensity of sensitivity. Additionally, keeping heartburn in check and avoiding foods and drinks that are high in acid gives your teeth a fighting chance at retaining the enamel that protects them.
Sensitive teeth don’t have to control your life! If you’ve tried a few at-home remedies to no avail, give us a call at Metro Square Dental Associates in Vernon Hills to schedule your next appointment today!