As a dental hygienist, sensitive teeth is the number one complaint I receive from my patients on a daily basis. Anyone who has experienced teeth sensitivity knows how awful that feeling can be.
What is tooth sensitivity?
It’s a dreadful feeling. That sensation you get because of pain from sensitive teeth. The pain can vary but it can feel as painful as lightning bolts shooting through your teeth. We use our teeth to eat, drink and talk and more. So of course, you hate it and will do almost anything to get help for your teeth sensitivity.
Do you experience sensitive teeth when chewing? How often do you have to turn down food because you have sensitive teeth to hot and cold food and drinks? Pain from ingesting hot or cold substances can occur with tooth sensitivity.
Some people get other dental problems such as cavities confused with teeth sensitivity. Although a cavity can cause pain there is a difference in the two. Read on to find out everything you need to know about sensitive teeth.
What does it feel like?
So what does sensitive teeth feel like? The sensation that comes with tooth sensitivity can take several different forms.
For some people whose teeth are sensitive, it feels like a sharp stab. The pain may be similar to a needle prick or a lightning jolt. This is the one that I personally experience from time to time on my chipped tooth.
Since no one likes to experience pain, people who suffer from this condition are forced to do things like using straws to take drinks. They may also protect their teeth by placing their tongue over it or even totally avoiding certain drinks and foods.
According to a survey, about 1 in 8 people experience tooth sensitivity. The pain can reach all the way into the nerve endings of the tooth, leading to pain or extreme discomfort.
Symptoms of sensitive teeth
Sensitive teeth symptoms can come in several different forms but there are specific triggers that can cause discomfort and pain. As mentioned earlier, this pain can affect the nerves of your teeth. Some of the tooth sensitivity triggers include:
- Cold water and air
- Alcohol-based mouth rinses
- Sweet foods/beverages
- Hot or cold foods/beverages
- Acidic foods/beverages
- Teeth flossing/brushing
Your symptoms could range from mild to intense and may disappear or resurface at different times.
What causes sensitive teeth?
So, do you have sensitive teeth to cold or sensitive teeth when chewing but do not know why?
Your teeth have an enamel layer that is meant to protect your dentin which can become sensitive if exposed. To understand why you feel those awful sensations, here are some possible tooth sensitivity causes:
- You can experience sensitive teeth when brushing if you do it too hard. This is known as toothbrush abrasion. Brushing too hard, especially with a hard bristle toothbrush, and using side-to-side movement of your brush can wear off your enamel. This can especially happen at your gum line, which is the point where your gums connect with your teeth. This exposure could cause your teeth and dentin to become sensitive.
- Among the causes of sensitive teeth is dental tooth erosion. Dental tooth erosion can cause you to lose your enamel. This often happens because of eating acidic drinks and food. This also causes dentin exposure that can trigger sensitivity.
- People experience sensitive teeth near gums because gums can shrink back. This is called recession. This leaves the teeth roots exposed and increasing sensitivity.
- Tooth grinding can wear off your enamel. When you clench and grind your teeth together, you damage enamel and increase your risk of tooth sensitivity.
- Sensitive teeth near gums can also occur due to a buildup of tartar. The shrinkage of your gums can damage your tooth slowly. When your gums begin to have pockets from gum disease, it can be challenging to clean the area which only worsens the issue.
- Breaks, cracks or chips on your teeth can also cause tooth sensitivity by exposing the inner layer of the tooth called dentin or if the break is bad enough, the pulp and nerve of the tooth.
- Bleaching your teeth can cause short-term teeth sensitivity. You need to consult your dentist before any teeth bleaching exercise.
- Sensitive teeth when eating sweets can be common as well. Teeth can be sensitive to sweets.
Sensitive teeth after dental work
Some people may suffer from sensitive teeth after getting a filling or replacing an old filling. Cavity-causing tooth decay triggers an irritation that can worsen when you go through the filling process. But this should improve after a couple of weeks or months.
There’s no need to panic as long as you see slow and steady signs of improvement. If your tooth sensitivity persists or is too painful, your dentist may consider a root canal.
Teeth fillings can also cause sensitivity when you bite down. All it takes to fix this is a bite adjustment. If the filling happens to be too high, your dentist can simply lower it by adjusting your bite.
Sensitive teeth when chewing can also be caused by dental work such as filling or crowns. Although you may experience no pain when you clench your teeth together, you may feel it when you chew. This type of sensitive teeth can be corrected by a bite adjustment or by possibly getting a replacement. Your dentist will be able to correct the issue.
Sensitive teeth remedies
People who experience this painful condition need help with sensitive teeth. There are different things you can do to find a sensitive teeth cure. Always check with your dentist to make sure you do not have a condition that needs dental attention.
Check out these sensitive teeth remedies below:
One such way to cure sensitive teeth is to explore over the counter treatments.
Using toothpaste that is made specifically for tooth sensitivity patients can help. They are devoid of any irritating elements and have ingredients to help in desensitizing the affected area. This sensitive toothpaste helps seal off microscopic dental tubules and relieves sensitive teeth. I highly recommend Sensodyne rapid relief sensitive toothpaste. It works fast and as simple as brushing your teeth.
I have heard WONDERFUL things about Senzaway tooth desenstizing gel. Just one treatment with this desensitizer gel is clinically proven to immediately eliminate your tooth sensitivity to cold, sweets and heat and keep it away for at 4-6 months. Contains a multi use vial and dentist approved. For sensitivity due to whitening, aggressive brushing, and tooth damage.
Another cure for sensitive teeth is mouthwash. Make sure to use an alcohol-free mouth rinse to reduce how much irritation you cause to your sensitive teeth. I recommend CloSYS mouthwash. It is my favorite mouthwash for so many reasons check out this article and read more about CloSYS mouthwash.
Also be sure to use a soft toothbrush such as the BURST sonic toothbrush. The BURST sonic toothbrush has very soft nylon bristles that are thin and tapered which helps you brush effectively but very gently. It also has charcoal bristles which have antibacterial properties that also whiten your teeth safely. You can read all about it here> BURST sonic toothbrush review.
Be sure to be gentle when you brush your teeth to avoid toothbrush abrasion and recession. If you have recession or abrasion, the dentist may have to place a filling or crown over the area to protect it.
If your tooth sensitivity is coming from a break, chip or cracked tooth, visit your dentist to get the tooth fixed. Depending on the severity, different treatment will be required. It could be as simple as a filling to a little more invasive such as a crown or root canal.
If the pain is from tooth erosion, see your doctor so they can get you on the right medicine to prevent further acid damage. Visit your dentist to see what can be done to fix the erosion on your teeth. Your dentist may have to do some restorative work on your teeth depending on the severity.
Teeth grinding can be a serious issue and should be discussed with your dentist. Get yourself a mouth guard to sleep in to prevent further damage to your enamel and prevent further tooth pain. Bruxism or teeth grinding can be from serious sleep related issues. Read more about teeth grinding and bruxism.
If buildup is the issue of your tooth pain, you need to visit your dental hygienist for a thorough teeth cleaning and an exam from your dentist. They will evaluate you for gum disease and provide further treatment if needed.
If teeth whitening is the cause of your pain, discontinue use immediately. If you wish to continue using teeth whiteners, be sure to use one that is made for sensitive teeth such as the BURST coconut oil whitening strips. I have sensitive teeth and use these often. I have great results with no sensitivity.
You can also use a whitening toothpaste for sensitive teeth such as Sensodyne Whitening toothpaste. This toothpaste will allow you to get tooth sensitivity relief while also brightening your smile.
Using these sensitive teeth remedies may require a continuous application before you see results. But it shouldn’t take long for you to notice an improvement in your condition.
Natural cure for sensitive teeth
Asides over the counter remedies for tooth sensitivity, there are natural treatments for sensitive teeth that you can explore. Check some of them out below as we discuss some natural ways to find a cure for sensitive teeth:
Virtually everyone knows how powerful garlic is as it packs a wide range of health benefits. But did you know that garlic can help to treat toothache, as well?
When you chew garlic, allicin is produced which, according to a study, has antimicrobial characteristics. This means that it has the potential to kill oral disease-causing bacteria like streptococcus mutans.
Tooth decay could result from the accumulation of streptococcus mutans around your gums and teeth which can aggravate sensitive teeth. Garlic could help to fight these bacteria.
Using a topical gel that’s made of guava leaf extract or simply chewing the leaves can help lower your tooth sensitivity. In 2017, a review considered the benefits that come from guava leaves and pointed out that guava flavonoid-rich extracts can soothe a toothache. This is because it has the ability to relieve pain, inflammation, and fight harmful bacteria.
For many decades, clove gel has served as a treatment for toothache and research shows that there is more to it. Topical benzocaine was compared with clove gel in a study. Topical benzocaine is that gel used by dentists to numb the gum before they start to poke needles. The results from the study showed that clove gel may have a similar level of effectiveness in providing needle pain relief. Clove oil or gel, when applied to the gum, can help to relieve sensitive teeth and pain but more studies are necessary to confirm the extent.
- Saltwater rinse
This is another fascinating sensitive teeth natural cure. Fighting oral bacteria by using a saltwater rinse can help to improve your oral health. A recent study revealed that rinsing your mouth with salt water can produce the same plaque-reducing results as chlorhexidine mouthwash. Mix warm water with some salt to make your saltwater mouth rinse. Swish the solution around your mouth severally and pour it out.
How can I prevent sensitive teeth?
There are some vital ways to prevent sensitive teeth from occurring in the first place. Here are 7 prevention measures for tooth sensitivity:
- Brush regularly. Make it a habit to brush at least twice daily and especially, before you retire for the night. Use a fluoride toothpaste that is designed for teeth sensitivity. Do not perform side-to-side brushing but use small movements in a circular motion. Also, make sure that your brush has a soft bristle that is designed to effective but gentle on the teeth. Never use a hard bristle toothbrush.
- Since some drinks and foods can cause your enamel to become soft, do not always brush immediately after a meal. Allow ample time to pass before you brush. About 30 minutes is long enough to allow the pH level in your mouth to come back to normal. This way you are sure not to brush acid into your teeth.
- Discard your toothbrush every 60 to 90 days but you don’t have to wait that long. As soon as it becomes worn out, get a new one.
- Reduce your intake of acidic drinks and sugary foods. You could take them only while having meals.
- Consult your dentist if you have a teeth-grinding habit. You may consider getting a mouth guard to be worn during the night.
- Before you carry out a teeth bleaching procedure, speak with your dentist. Teeth sensitivity should be analyzed before you commence treatment.
- Always pay regular visits to your dentists and follow all recommendations.
Work with your dentist always
Your dentist can help you to find the best solution to your teeth sensitivity. From mouthwashes and toothpaste to natural remedies for sensitive teeth, you can find help for your condition.
Your dental team can give you valuable advice and also perform dental work if needed. They may also be able to prescribe a prescription toothpaste to help.
Should you notice any signs and symptoms of a tooth cavity or possible damage to your teeth, see your dentist immediately. This is to ensure that you get treated fast and avoid any complications that might arise.
Kelly Hancock, RDH
Kelly is a registered dental hygienist and oral health care provider. She is passionate about oral hygiene and encourages people to achieve optimal oral health. She has been working in the dental profession for 16 years and worked in many different roles in the dental industry. Kelly is currently a pediatric dental hygienist specializing in children’s dentistry. She is committed to helping others with their oral health care issues and helping others achieve a smile they love.