5 Common Sensitive Teeth Myths Exposed

Young parents with their little son eating ice cream with no painful sensitive teethPainful sensitive teeth are a common condition. Unfortunately, the condition is as common as the myths that can exacerbate and prolong the pain of sensitive teeth (if believed!). Don’t fall into the trap of believing these common sensitive teeth myths, which can keep you from finding relief from painful sensitive teeth.

Only cold foods cause sensitive teeth.

This myth is partially true. Cold foods are one of the triggers of sensitive teeth, but not the only. Acidic, sweet, or hot foods can also bring on the pain of sensitive teeth. In addition, there can be a number of underlying reasons for your sudden sensitive teeth, such as a damaged tooth, loss of tooth enamel, or receding gums. These conditions require dental care, so don’t just assume that your problem is sensitive teeth and you have to tolerate the condition. Visit your dentist to verify that you don’t have any of an underlying dental condition that’s causing the discomfort.

I just have to deal with my sensitive teeth.

There is hope for sensitive teeth sufferers, though the relief depends on the cause. Desensitizing toothpastes can alleviate some of the pain; ask your dentist for recommendations. Your dentist can also determine if a dental condition, such as an undiagnosed cavity or teeth grinding, is exacerbating the condition and treat the dental issue. If the cause is teeth grinding, or bruxism, a mouthguard and avoiding caffeine can stem future damage.

The pain from sensitive teeth goes away.

Sensitive teeth are not a random issue that comes on and goes away. The pain from sensitive teeth occurs when the enamel wears away or gums recede, exposing the dentin of the tooth. Once the dentin is exposed, the problem does not just rectify itself without a diagnosis and action. Visit the dentist to determine the cause and treat the issue.

Sensitive teeth don’t lead to any really bad dental problems.

In most cases, sensitive teeth does not progress and causes more serious dental issues. However, when the cause of the sensitivity is an underlying condition, sensitive teeth are a signal of what is to come. An undiagnosed condition can progress, leading to gum issues, tooth loss, and damaged teeth.

Brushing and flossing harder makes sensitive teeth less painful.

Sensitive teeth are not caused by dirty teeth or from soft brushing. Aggressive brushing and flossing can actually wear down enamel, making the sensitive teeth worse. To the contrary, purchase a soft-bristled toothbrush after receiving the diagnosis of sensitive teeth. Brush in soft circular strokes with a toothpaste specifically produced for those suffering with sensitive teeth. Add fluoridated products to your oral hygiene routine; fluoride can strengthen enamel and alleviate the pain of sensitive teeth.

Tips for Whiter (and Healthier!) Teeth

Beautiful girl is showing her white teeth after teeth whiteningWhite, healthy teeth is not an oxymoron—or at least it shouldn’t be! That’s the good news, though it does come with a note of caution. Just type “whiten teeth,” into an internet search browser and pages of promises pop up, all with natural solutions that instantaneously whiten teeth. However, all those promises should come with a note of caution. Many of these solutions can wear down the enamel and cause short- and long-term damage to teeth. That’s why we put together a list of tips to get white teeth without risking the health of your teeth.

Limit those yellowing foods and drinks.

Some of our favorite food and drinks, such as blackberries (or any dark berries), coffee, and soda, are the biggest culprits in yellow teeth. Limit how much you consume; when you do indulge, drink water and brush your teeth as soon as you can (especially after a soda, which is a proven source of cavities).

Give up tobacco.

There are a lot of good reasons to stop smoking or chewing tobacco, both funds (saving money!) and health wise. Quitting smoking decreases the risk for many health problems, and it also eliminates one of the chief causes of yellow teeth. The nicotine in tobacco is colorless until it comes in contact with oxygen, causing your teeth to yellow. In addition, the tar in tobacco causes dark stains that can be difficult to remove. To get whiter teeth, quit tobacco use (these tips for quitting smoking can help) and remove the source of yellow teeth.

Brush and floss twice a day.

Regular oral hygiene plays a significant role in keeping teeth healthy AND white. Brush teeth at least twice a day, and floss before or after brushing; the order doesn’t matter, as long as flossing is done. To get rid of surface stains, purchase a whitening toothpaste; look for the American Dental Association seal of approval to buy a reputable and effective product.

Know that dental work may not cooperate.

Fillings, crowns, caps, and other dental work do not whiten as other normal teeth do. If the teeth are different colors (such as brown and yellow), the teeth might whiten to different shades as well. Likewise, teeth discolored by medications or an injury may not whiten (or may whiten less) than normal teeth.

Be careful about natural and over-the-counter whitening products.

It can be really tempting to purchase any of the numerous whitening trays or rinses. Be careful. Using teeth whitening products too much or outside of the label can damage your teeth and gums or lead to injuries, such as chemical burns or loss of enamel. Trays do not always fit properly, applying the product to other areas of the mouth.

Natural home remedies come with a similar disclaimer; certain household products, especially acidic ones, can wear down the enamel in your mouth.  Be cautious when mixing or applying these remedies that can do more harm than good.

Talk to your dentist.

The right dentist is a trusted professional, which is precisely why you should consult your dentist before starting any whitening program (even natural whitening remedies). Your dentist can give you advice on what to do about dental work, whitening products that won’t damage the enamel, and treat and repair any dental problems prior to whitening (for example, cavities should be filled before using a whitening product).

6 Reasons Your Tooth Hurts

dentist with xray of teeth from patient with painful tooth“My tooth hurts so much I can’t eat or sleep.” “On a scale of 1 to 10, the pain is a solid 7.” A painful tooth doesn’t have to be off the charts to interrupt your daily activities. It just hurts—and it’s natural to want to know why.

We’ve compiled a list of common reasons that a tooth hurts, but it comes with a (small) disclaimer. If the pain gets worse, doesn’t allow you to eat or drink normally, or doesn’t go away, contact a dentist or doctor to resolve the issue and ease the pain.

Cracked or chipped tooth

A tooth injury doesn’t always occur from a fall or a hit from an object, and it’s not always the most painful. However, when the nerve becomes exposed, a cracked or chipped tooth can really hurt. The pain and the tooth doesn’t get better on its own. Make an emergency appointment with the dentist to repair the damage and ease the pain.

Sensitive teeth

If the tooth pain comes after eating hot or cold food, the cause could be sensitive teeth (or a cavity). A visit with your dentist can give you the exact cause.

Sensitive teeth are caused when dentin, the material that makes up the majority of the interior of your tooth, is exposed and becomes irritated or sensitive. Sensitive teeth can be caused by a damaged tooth, loss of tooth enamel, teeth grinding, or receding gums. If sensitive teeth are the cause of the pain, ask the dentist for sentivity toothpastes and fluoridated products that they recommend. Use a soft-bristled tooth brush when you brush and avoid the kind of food that causes the pain (i.e. acidic foods, extremely sweet foods, very hot or cold foods).


A cavity is a hole in your tooth; when the hole is deep enough and exposes sensitive parts of the tooth, a cavity can cause tooth pain (and sensitive teeth). (A cavity may also be present without pain.) Contact a dentist who can tell you if the source of the pain is a cavity. Pain relievers can help with the pain, but make sure that not feeling the pain doesn’t delay your visit to the professionals.

Sinus Infection

If you are already sick, the cause could be a sinus infection. The symptoms of a sinus infection include sinus pressure, congestion, fever, tiredness, coughing, and teeth pain. When the sinuses are infected, the pain can extend clear down to the teeth. Many people suffering from sinusitis (sinus infection) can find relief with over-the-counter medications to decrease the inflammation and decrease the pain.  If the sinus infection worsens, contact a doctor for an exam and antibiotics to fight the infection.


Toothaches can be incredibly painful, and can occur from a number of different causes. No matter how much it hurts, DO NOT apply heat to your mouth as treatment, even if it brings temporary relief, as heat can cause swelling and make your toothache worse. Instead, apply an ice pack on the side of the mouth where the pain is most severe.

Contact a dentist to get the root cause treated and avoid anything (i.e. food, vibration, pressure to that side of your mouth, etc.) that makes the pain worse. Use over-the-counter medications to treat your toothache, but be careful to follow directions—and only use medications that won’t counteract with any medication you take on a regular basis.

Gum disease

Gum disease inflames the gums and causes a host of problems, including pain, bleeding, bad breath, swelling, sores in the mouth, and loss of teeth. When the gum disease causes a recession of the gums, nerves can become exposed and cause pain. If you even suspect gum disease is the cause of the pain, contact the dentist immediately. The doctor can recommend ways to treat the pain, and halt the progression of the gum disease.

Why do I need a dental cleaning? (And what kind of teeth cleaning do I need?)

woman getting a dentist exam and teeth cleaningBrushing your teeth twice a day? Great! Flossing on a regular basis? That’s awesome! Regular brushing and flossing is a vital step in the fight against cavities and gum disease, but it’s only part of the battle.

Even with regular brushing and flossing, plaque, tarter, and bacteria can build up in your mouth. All these factors can create the perfect storm (as well as sugar) that cause dental problems like cavities and gum disease. If left untreated, cavities and gum disease can lead to costly dental procedures and the loss of a tooth (or many teeth). Brushing and flossing can remove some of the plaque, tarter, and bacteria—but not all (and sometimes not even most of it).

Regular dental cleanings give your mouth a deep clean (gums and teeth), removing as much plaque, tarter, and bad bacteria as possible. In addition, a dental cleaning also removes stains on teeth (i.e. from coffee, wine, etc.) and freshens breath. Dental cleanings can halt the progression of serious dental problems (i.e. cavities, gum disease, tooth decay, etc.) and save you from paying for fairly costly dental procedures.

The general rule of thumb for teeth cleanings is that patients should schedule a dental cleaning once or twice a year. This guideline applies to patients who do not exhibit signs of gum disease or bone loss in the mouth. These patients receive the most common dental cleaning called prophylaxis.

Just as with everything in life, the general rule of thumb (once or twice a year dental cleanings) applies to some people but not to everyone. For others exhibiting early signs of bone and gum disease or battling gum disease, a more intense deep clean is recommended—and more often than twice a year. There are two kinds of deep dental cleanings offered for these patients:

Root planing and scaling

Root planing and scaling is not only a more intense dental cleaning than prophylaxis, it also covers more of the mouth. Root planing and scaling cleans your mouth from the top down to the roots, removing plaque, tarter, bacteria and diseased deposits from the mouth. This kind of cleaning is recommended for patients showing the signs of bone and gum disease and should be scheduled as often as the dentist recommends.

Periodontal maintenance

Periodontal maintenance is not a single dental cleaning appointment, but a series of dental cleaning and therapies. These appointments can be scheduled as often as every three months and are performed to stop the progression of gum disease. Because these deep cleanings remove the bacteria, tarter, and plaque and remove diseased tissue, patients need to make every effort to keep the appointments. Periodontal maintenance also maintains healthy gums and sustain bone structure. If your dentist recommends periodontal maintenance, check with your insurance for coverage details.

20+ Ways to Get (and Stay) Healthy This Summer

happy woman with outstretched arms standing in field enjoying summer sunshineIt’s almost SUMMER! After months of cold temperatures, snow that never seemed to stop falling, and all the shoveling (and fun!) that comes with Wisconsin winters, it’s almost time for the end of school, campfires, sunshine, swimming, and all our favorite summer activities.

Summer is also a time when routines tend to go out the window—and so do the winter jackets and cold weather gear. We all want to look and feel our best so we can enjoy our favorite summer activities. Being healthy is a head to toe endeavor (remember that preschool song about the knee bone being connected to the hip bone?); research backs this up, as detailed in this article about how dental health affects the overall health of our body.

We’ve compiled a list of head-to-toe ways to get (and keep) your body healthy so you can enjoy all your favorite summer activities. Remember that you have a better chance of sticking to your health goal if you involve friends and family, so grab a friend or family member and start making plans (together) to get ready for the summer sunshine!

  1. Go swimming
  2. Schedule an annual doctor exam
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Take a yoga class
  5. Make an exercise pact with a buddy
  6. Maintain regular bed times
  7. Start regularly riding bikes with friends or family
  8. Go hiking
  9. Make an appointment to get your teeth cleaned
  10. Take a dog for a walk (or ask at a local shelter if they need dog walkers!)
  11. Plan healthy meals
  12. Go kayaking or canoeing
  13. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes
  14. Sign up for sports league (or get a group of friends together into a team)
  15. Drink water to stay hydrated
  16. Use sunscreen (even when it’s not hot out)
  17. Jump rope
  18. Join a workout group
  19. Get together for a weekly basketball (or your sport of choice) game with friends
  20. Follow a home workout plan
  21. Cut down on soda (or other sugary drink)
  22. Take the stairs more often (instead of the elevator)
  23. Bike to work (if possible)

Why do I need my wisdom teeth removed?

dentist examining teen's wisdom teethWisdom teeth removal procedures are more than just the source of funny videos (usually recorded after an extraction when the patient is loopy) or a normal part of being a teenager. If your dentist recommends a wisdom teeth removal, there are many different reasons that your wisdom teeth may need to come out.

What are the signs that my wisdom teeth need to come out?

Wisdom teeth usually start to come in between the ages of 17 and 25; the exact age is different for everyone. Some people’s wisdom teeth come in without any issue and can stay in without crowding other teeth and causing alignment issues or complications. When wisdom teeth start to grow, it is normal for there to be redness, pain, tenderness, and swelling. However, these uncomfortable symptoms are not reason alone for a wisdom teeth extraction.

In certain situations, the emergence of wisdom teeth can be accompanied by an infection. When an infection occurs, a sac full of pus forms around the tooth (called an abscess). An abscess is usually very painful and may feel like a throbbing toothache. You may also notice a bump, red gums, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, pain that extends to the jaw, sensitivity to hot or cold foods, or tender lymph nodes. Schedule a dentist appointment immediately if you notice any of these symptoms (remember to call, don’t e-mail in cases of an emergency). In extreme cases, an abscess can cause swelling or trouble breathing; visit a doctor immediately if you have either of these serious symptoms.

Why do I need my wisdom teeth removed?

Your dentist may recommend a wisdom tooth removal procedure if the tooth is infected. Another reason for a wisdom teeth extraction is if the wisdom teeth are impacted. When wisdom teeth can’t come in properly because of the jawbone or other teeth, the wisdom teeth get stuck in place (but keep developing). This condition can cause pain, infection, and even lead to cysts. Schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately if you experience pain or numbness, or any symptoms of an infection.

What can I do to make my recovery better after a wisdom teeth removal procedure?

Wisdom tooth extraction is a fairly common dental procedure. As with any other procedure, there can be complications from wisdom teeth removal. These issues can often be minimized by taking these steps for a smooth recovery after the procedure:

  • Take a few days off from normal activity to reduce swelling and allow the body to rest.
  • Use ice to minimize swelling and replace gauze as often as necessary.
  • Prevent dry mouth, a painful complication, by avoiding straws, cigarettes, vigorous swirling of anything in your mouth, and any action that involves too much suction.
  • Be gentle when opening your mouth for the first 24 hours (but do so from time to time).
  • Be cautious about foods and liquids that could cause problems during recovery, such as popcorn, alcohol, hot liquids, hard foods (chips, nuts, etc.), solid foods, acidic foods, and sticky foods (peanut butter, marshmallows, etc.).
  • Eat soft foods after the wisdom teeth extraction such as soup, pudding, mashed potatoes, soft vegetables, gelatin, and smoothies.
  • Don’t brush teeth for 24 hours after the wisdom teeth removal procedure. Adjust your brushing technique for a few days and use the mouth rinse your dentist recommends to keep your mouth clean.
  • Keep activity light for another 7-14 days after wisdom teeth extraction so you can prevent complications.
  • Contact your dentist or oral surgeon immediately if you experience symptoms of any complications, such as excessive bleeding or pain.

Easter Tips that Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy

children painting eggs for Easter with healthy teethChocolate bunnies. Jelly beans. Peanut butter eggs. Candy marshmallows. We’re not trying to make your mouth water, we just want you to only remember the delicious candy flavor after Easter—and not all the cavities. That’s why we’ve put together these tips that can keep you and your family’s teeth healthy (and cavity-free!).

Resist the temptation to continually snack

A jellybean here. Just a few chocolate eggs. Grabbing a few pieces of candy from time to time may seem like a good idea, but it can be very bad for your teeth. Grazing throughout the day can trigger continual “storms” in your mouth. Bacteria in your mouth combine with food (or candy) that sits on your teeth and creates plaque which includes acid. The acid in the plaque eats holes in your tooth (tooth decay) called cavities. This is one of the few times where it’s better to enjoy your fill of candy than to continually dig in.

Drink water

Water is not only good for your body, it’s good for your teeth too. Drinking water (not flavored water) after enjoy a sugary drink or treat can wash away food particles and help avoid dry mouth, both of which are causes of cavities. For an added bonus, treat yourself to fluoridated water which strengthens teeth enamel and keeps cavities at bay.

Brush, brush, brush (and floss!)

Even if you drink water, always brush your teeth after indulging in your Easter candy. Brush your teeth twice a day, and floss to remove any leftover food particles. A fluoridated mouthwash can also wash food particles away and strengthen tooth enamel.

To make sure everyone’s teeth are clean after enjoying Easter candy, make brushing teeth a family event. When all the excitement of Easter has died down, role model good tooth brushing technique for your kids. Double check their brushing job, and floss together so you’re all healthy. If your kids are still resistant, use fun brushing apps and games to make sure they brush well for two minutes.

In addition to sticking to a solid oral hygiene routine, make sure you have regular cleaning appointments scheduled with your dentist. A professional teeth cleaning can clean off plaque (even in hard-to-reach areas) which can lead to tooth decay.

Give (fun!) non-candy Easter gifts

If you don’t want to deal with the temptation of Easter candy, ask the Easter Bunny to deliver non-candy Easter gifts. Kids love pencils, pens, bubbles, glow sticks, and gift certificates for tunes or other favorite hobbies. (We’ve listed some common favorite Easter ideas in a recent post.) One of the hugest benefits of a non-candy Easter gift is that kids can have fun—without any risk of cavities that can really put a damper on Easter fun.

Is my tooth infected?

Dentist is treating patient with tooth infectionIf you ask us if you have infection in your tooth, the conversation is probably going involve the term “abscess.” When a tooth is infected, an abscess forms around the infected tooth. An abscess is a sac of pus that forms from an infection.

How can you tell if you have an abscess?

Unfortunately, and abscess is usually very painful and may feel like a throbbing toothache. You may also notice a bump that resembles a pimple in your mouth. Other signs of an abscess could include red gums, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, pain that extends to the jaw, sensitivity to hot or cold foods, or tender lymph nodes. Schedule a dentist appointment immediately if you notice any of these symptoms (remember to call, don’t e-mail in cases of an emergency).

An abscess could also cause swelling or trouble breathing. If you experience either of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately.

How is an abscess diagnosed and treated?

If an abscess if not treated, an abscess does not clear up on its own. To the contrary, an abscess can progress into a life-threatening condition.

If diagnosed early, an abscess can be treated and the tooth saved. A dentist can diagnose an abscess with x-rays. Once diagnosed, a dentist can drain the abscess, remove the infection, and, if possible, repair the damage with a root canal. Your dentist may prescribe medication to treat the infection.

How can I prevent an infection and abscess?

The source of a tooth infection is usually tooth decay. For that reason, the steps to prevent an infection are similar to measures taken to prevent tooth decay and cavities.

  • Establish a regular oral hygiene routine. Brush and floss twice a day, every day. If you drink soda (or another sugary drink) or eat a lot of sugary or starchy foods, make sure you brush and floss as soon after as possible.
  • Use mouthwash. Purchase a mouthwash that strengthens your tooth enamel (other ways to strengthen enamel are listed here), loosens plaque, and removes the harmful bacteria that causes tooth decay and cavities.
  • Schedule regular cleanings. A professional dental cleaning removes plaque and tartar that can lead to tooth decay and cavities. Schedule a dental cleaning twice a year.
  • Eat a diet low in sugar and starches. Sugar and starches are one of the chief causes of tooth decay. Choose your snacks and meals carefully to minimize your risk for cavities.
  • Drink water. Water is a healthy drink for your body, especially your teeth. Fluoridated water strengthens tooth enamel, washes away small pieces of food, and helps avoid dry mouth which can leave your teeth vulnerable to decay. Avoid drinking a lot of soda, which has been connected to higher rates of tooth decay. If you do drink a soda, follow it up with a glass of water, brushing, and flossing.

6 Brushing Mistakes NOT to Teach Your Kids

Little girl in pink pajamas in bathroom brushing her teethJust as with many things in life, it’s really easy to pass on the bad with the good lessons—even when teaching them the basics of brushing teeth. Here are some common mistakes you should try NOT to pass on to your kids.

Brushing too hard

“You gotta brush really well!” is a well-meaning saying that can be easily misunderstood—and turn into a brushing mistake. While you want your kids to reach all those hard-to-reach places (what you mean), make sure your kids don’t interpret those words into brushing really hard. If kids brush too hard, it can lead to sore (or bleeding) gums—and kids who don’t want to brush the next day.

Not flossing

Parenting can seem like a game of Monkey See, Monkey Do. If you want your kids to floss, show them how to do it AND do it yourself. Be a good flossing role model whenever they’re around; floss before or after you brush (it doesn’t matter when as long as you do it). When your kids brush on their own, don’t just ask your kids if they brushed. Ask if they flossed their teeth, as well, to reinforce the importance of this healthy habit. If they are still afraid to floss, ask your dentist how to make flossing fun at home. Your dentist can also talk to them about the importance of regular flossing; flossing helps decrease cavities, tooth decay, and the chance of developing gum disease (all of which you don’t want your kids to deal with!).

Not brushing long enough

Have you ever seen a kid head into the bathroom to wash their hands, only to rinse their hands for a second and then head out yelling “I washed my hands”? Avoid the same kind of ineffective tooth brushing! Set a timer for two minutes or play a two-minute song to ensure that your kids are thoroughly brushing their teeth. Teaching your kids the right way to brush now (use these ideas for teaching kids to brush) can lead to less dental problems as they grow and keeps their baby teeth healthy (here’s why healthy baby teeth are important).

Not brushing enough

Kids (and adults) should brush twice a day. When life gets hectic and crazy, it can be hard to find the time to squeeze in a good tooth brush. Don’t let your kids skip even one time. Bring a tooth brush and tooth paste along if you think your kids are going to fall asleep on the way home. Make sure you remind your kids to brush even when they are on vacation (and out of routine). If your kids are still being stubborn about skipping brushing, ask your dentist to talk to them about the importance of teeth brushing at their next dentist appointment.

Letting them brush on their own

Brushing teeth is a great first step of independence. Your kids love showing you can do it—but that doesn’t mean they should be brushing entirely on their own. Because their motor control and dexterity is still developing, do a quick check of their brushing after their done—and don’t be afraid to do a quick touch-up with their toothbrush.

Not swapping out brushes

This is a mistake that you can directly control. While your family doesn’t need new tooth brushes every time you get sick, but your family should replace everyone’s tooth brushes every 3-4 months. Take your kids shopping with you to pick out new tooth brushes (and tooth pastes) that they can’t wait to brush with the next morning or night.