Ouch! What to Do When You Have Sensitive Teeth

Ouch! What to Do When You Have Sensitive Teeth

Even though winter is upon us, and most of the country is trying its best to stay away from just about anything cold, hordes of ice cream lovers across the nation show no concern for the temperature outside when it comes to indulging in their favorite treats. From the mildly chilly winter of southern Florida, to the deep freeze of Alaska, you don't have to look far to find an American enjoying an icy treat even in December. Nor is there much of a search needed to find a person who has to dance around that ice cream cone because they've got sensitive teeth. Want to avoid a similar predicament, or reduce sensitivity if you're one of the unlucky millions? Here's how ...

According to research, a staggering one out of every two people in the world suffer from what is known as “sensitive teeth.” In dental circles, the condition is referred to as “dentin hypersensitivity,” and its symptoms are triggered when the exposed areas of our teeth become subject to pressure, or come in contact with cold or hot food and beverages. For some, even a cool winter breeze when smiling can cause pain. Fortunately it can be treated in a number of ways, and it can also be avoided with good dental care.

Prevent, or Slow the Onset of Sensitivity

  • Turn down the aggression. Many of us brush our teeth as if we're scrubbing in for surgery – far too rough for the few millimeters of enamel that protects the dentin beneath. While plaque is sticky and dastardly, removing it doesn't require the sort of effort most of us put forth. Brushing your teeth should almost feel as though you were massaging your gums instead of scrubbing them, and you should never brush with a back'n'forth saw-like motion. This all-too-common method of brushing is perhaps the most frequent cause of gum recession not tied to disease, and it literally carves grooves in the enamel of your teeth. If you brush gently and in a circular motion, aiming the head of the toothbrush at an angle toward the base of the gums, you'll be in good shape. Ask your dentist for a lesson in proper brushing if you're afraid you're not doing it correctly. This single tip can help you avoid sensitivity and help stall its progress, if you're already a sufferer.
  • Take care of your gums. As unwise as it is to take your aggressions out on your teeth, ignoring them has a similar effect when it comes to sensitivity. Because this condition is a result of dentin exposure, those with receding gums are also likely to experience its symptoms. Since our teeth are only covered by enamel to a point just below the gumline, any recession to the gumline exposes the dentin. We all know the drill on preventing gum disease. Brush regularly, see your dentist, and floss daily. These are the three golden rules, and they can save you from tooth sensitivity, and a host of other problems later on in life.

Already Suffering? 

  • Try an over-the-counter toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Such toothpastes have ingredients that help to either “seal off,” the exposed “pores” of your dentin, or desensitize the nerve in a way that minimizes its reaction to triggers.
  • Follow the two tips above that for those interested in preventing sensitive teeth. Both steps can help lessen your sensitivity over time.
  • Ask your dentist for a cover-up. For some, the application of a fluoride varnish, veneer, or certain types of bonding can effectively cover up the exposed area, and act as a barrier to exposure. These procedures are quick and simple, and can make a world of difference if nothing else works for you. Such efforts also have the added benefit of protecting your tooth from further erosion, which is good if you're prone to aggressive brushing.
Sensitive teeth are a nuisance. So, be proactive and protect your teeth now if you're not a sufferer, and, if you are, take the right steps to stall its progress. Ice cream, any time of the year – every year – is, after all, a good thing.