According the American Dental Association, tooth sensitivity affects nearly 1 in 8 people. This sensitivity can range from mild discomfort to short, sharp pains.
If you find yourself shying away from ice cold beverages or steaming hot tea because they irritate your teeth – you might have sensitive teeth.
Some people have naturally sensitive teeth while others have teeth that become sensitive over time for a variety of reasons that we will go over down below.
How Teeth Whitening Affects Tooth Sensitivity
If you have just recently had a whitening treatment done on your teeth, it’s highly likely that they are more sensitive than usual.
This is because the whitening agents in teeth whitening treatments contain chemicals that can temporarily weaken and expose the pores of your teeth. This can make your teeth more sensitive to chewing, biting and hot/cold temperatures. This sensitivity usually lasts for only a few days and can be easily remedied.
So let’s talk about how you can decrease general tooth sensitivity.
In most cases, tooth sensitivity is directly related to the state of your enamel.
Enamel is the outermost layer of your teeth and is very durable. It protects your teeth by forming a shell-like shape around them so that external substances can’t penetrate the deeper layers.
Enamel is very strong, however, it can become cracked or wear down over time. Sometimes this is natural – for example, as we age, our enamel will begin to weaken. But in other cases, external factors can also affect your enamel.
What Hurts Enamel
Start by considering the following questions:
Are you brushing correctly? Brushing too hard and too rigorously can wear down your enamel. It’s important to brush at a 45 degree angle and not back and forth to avoid being too abrasive on your teeth.
In addition, you could be using a toothbrush with bristles that are too hard.
Are you eating a lot of acidic foods/drinks? Drinking coffee, tea and dark sodas can increase the wear of your enamel. (And further stain your teeth!)
Do you grind your teeth? Continual grinding can end up chipping, cracking or wearing down enamel.
Doing any of the above could lead to more sensitive teeth overtime. It’s evident just how important enamel is in the overall health and safety of your teeth.
What Helps Enamel
PROGRESSIVE RELIEF – These are methods that will relieve and decrease tooth sensitivity over time.
Foods that are high in calcium can help your body maintain healthy teeth. Being deficient in calcium can lead to an increased risk of osteoporosis, which causes the bones to weaken, including your teeth.
Calcium-rich foods include:
- Greek yogurt
- Collard greens
- Soy beans
- Canned sardines
Make an effort to put more calcium-rich foods into your daily diet.
Using a toothpaste that is designed for sensitive teeth is a great way to relieve pain or discomfort. For example, Sensodyne is a great alternative to regular toothpaste. Sensodyne toothpastes contain either stannous fluoride or potassium nitrate as an active ingredient. Stannous fluoride works by creating a barrier over sensitive areas, while potassium nitrate works by soothing the nerves inside your teeth.
Using a soft-bristled brush is another great solution for improving your enamel. As I mentioned above, some brushes can be too harsh and abrasive on sensitive teeth. Using a softer brush can help manage any discomfort.
If you are a victim of teeth grinding – especially when you’re sleeping at night – consider getting a mouth guard to protect your teeth and their enamel.
IMMEDIATE RELIEF – The solutions below are for continuous, painful sensitivity. If you experience this kind of discomfort it is always advised to seek dental care and instruction. But, until then, these are things you can do to help relieve pain in the meantime.
Salt + Water Rinse
Salt works as a effective antiseptic to help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Gargle a salt and lukewarm water solution to help with teeth sensitivity.
Honey is an antibacterial agent that can help the mouth heal wounds and reduce swelling or inflammation. Swish warm water and honey around in your mouth to promote inflammation production.
Advil or Ibuprofen
For quick and immediate relief, take an Advil or ibuprofen to help with teeth sensitivity. (It is not recommended to use these medicines as a permanent solution, however!)
Whatever the cause of your tooth sensitivity, know that you are not alone and that there are a variety of solutions available to you!