Wisconsin winters are a time for hot drinks and cold air, unless you suffer from sensitive teeth. Sensitive teeth can make it hard to enjoy even a short time outside or a good cup of coffee. Tooth sensitivity can be extremely painful, leaving you wondering how to treat those sore sensitive teeth and what is the cause behind the massive toothache.
Sensitive teeth are caused when dentin, a layer under the enamel, is exposed near the gum line. People with sensitive teeth experience pain (like a toothache) in one or several teeth because of acidic foods, sweet foods, hot or cold foods. There are several conditions that can cause sensitive teeth (schedule an appointment so the dentist can diagnose the specific condition and recommend treatment).
Some teeth whitening products, especially over-the-counter brands and home remedies, can wear down teeth. This causes tooth sensitivity, damages teeth, and unevenly whitens teeth. If cavities are not treated, tooth whitening products can exacerbate cavities and tooth decay. To prevent tooth damage, only use products that have an American Dental Association seal or visit the dentist for an approved teeth whitening product.
Acidic Foods and Beverages
Acidic foods and beverages can wear down enamel, eventually causing sensitive teeth. Avoid foods and beverages that can cause acid and wear down enamel, such as soda, coffee, and candy. Worn enamel can result in exposed dentin and painful sensitive teeth. Instead, eat foods that can strengthen enamel, such as milk, yogurt, almonds, kale, and sardines. Flouridated products can also play a role in lessening the effect of acidic foods.
A cavity is caused by the perfect storm of bacteria, saliva, and food. The combination results in an acid that wears down enamel and can decay teeth. As the cavity continues to progress, the symptoms of a cavity may start to become evident (though it is possible to have a cavity without symptoms). There may be pain or tooth sensitivity—especially when eating hot or cold foods. Patients should make an appointment with the dentist to treat cavities before they progress and cause further problems.
Hard Tooth Brushing
Brushing teeth is an important part of preventing dental issues, such as a cavity. However, if a patient brushes too hard, especially at the gum line, the tooth brushing can wear down the enamel. Instead, use a soft-bristled tooth brush and brush in easy, circular strokes.
Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, can cause a host of problems, such as cracked teeth and tooth sensitivity. This condition wears down teeth and may expose the dentist. Patients can experience teeth grinding without being aware of it because the grinding can happen at night. Those with bruxism can find out if they have the condition after visiting their dentist, from a consistently sore jaw and dull headache, or from another person who hears the grinding one night. (Find out how to lessen teeth grinding in this post.)
Cracked teeth can be caused by an accident, teeth grinding, or from other issues. Not every patient realizes when they have a cracked tooth; in some cases, they only realize the tooth is cracked when experiencing tooth sensitivity, pain, or bleeding.
A dental filling fills in a space in a tooth, such as from a cavity, cracked tooth, or worn tooth. When the filling is loose, or leaks, the exposed dentin can cause tooth sensitivity. (If the filling falls out, use these instructions for a lost filling.)
A dental procedure is not a common cause of tooth sensitivity, though patients can experience sensitive teeth after a dental visit. Even a dental cleaning can cause sensitive teeth. If this happens, patients should let their dentist know about the occurrence so treatment can be advised.
When gums start to recede, the exposure around the gum line can lead to sensitive teeth. Recessed gums can occur because of gum disease or with age (usually past 40). If recessed gums is the cause, schedule an appointment with the dentist to halt the progression and get a recommendation for sensitive teeth treatments.
When experiencing sensitive teeth, take these steps to treat the pain:
- Consider using a toothpaste specially formulated for sensitive teeth. (Ask the dentist for their recommendation for a sensitivity toothpaste which can help with the pain.)
- Stay away from anything that makes you hurt, such as acidic foods, sweet foods, and hot or cold foods. Keep a food journal if needed, and mark down when your teeth hurt.
- Use fluoridated products, which can strengthen tooth enamel.
- Visit the dentist. Be prepared to give them information, such as what triggers sensitive tooth pain. (The dentist can diagnose the problem and recommend appropriate treatment.)