Are you experiencing tooth sensitivity? Hot or cold temperatures, sweet or sour foods and drinks, and deep cavities or fillings often trigger this problem. Sensitivity is a common dilemma and an estimated 45 million Americans are victims! If you are undergoing orthodontic treatment, sensitivity is also not at all uncommon.
Sensitive teeth normally occurs when the enamel on the outside of the tooth wears away exposing the dentin layer of the tooth. The dentin layer is very porous with tubes that run to the nerve center. When exposed, the tubes react to changes in temperature and different foods.
During orthodontic treatment, the discomfort a patient experiences is due to pressure that is placed on your teeth by the braces. This level of discomfort varies from patient to patient. The sensitivity is not permanent and will only last a few days. At Wu Orthodontics, we educate our patients on how to reduce this sensitivity to enhance a more pleasant orthodontic treatment experience. However, if you aren’t wearing braces, below are some common causes of tooth sensitivity.
Most Common Causes
- The most common cause is due to over brushing. If you brush your teeth vigorously with tough bristles, you will soon brush away your gum line. As your gum line recedes, it exposes porous root surfaces, which may cause some of your teeth to become extremely sensitive. In older patients gum recession occurs over time as a result of the natural aging process. Brushing with a soft brush in an up and down motion vs horizontally can help reduce your risk of developing sensitive teeth.
- Acidic foods such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, wine, coffee, and sour citrus fruits and candy. Beware of sour patch kids and jolly ranchers! Rinse your mouth with water right after having acidic foods or drinks to dilute the acid.
- Abrasive toothpastes or brushing more than three times a day may also cause loss of enamel. Wait for at least one hour to brush teeth after you’ve had acidic foods or drinks. Acid leaves the enamel softened and more prone to erosion during brushing.
- Teeth whitening products at home and professionally applied by your dentist – properties of peroxide (one of the main ingredients in most tooth whitening products) have been shown to irritate the tooth nerve. This irritation or inflammation causes symptoms such as cold sensitivity and a tingling sensation and will improve over time.
- Grinding of teeth can also be a contributing factor. Wearing a mouth guard at night if you grind your teeth could also help prevent wearing down the enamel that can lead to sensitive teeth.
How to Eliminate Discomfort
No matter what is causing the problem, a good dental routine is your best bet to enjoying a pain-free day – everyday. Over-the-counter toothpastes for sensitive teeth, such as Sensodyne and Colgate’s Sensitive Pro-Relief, can sometimes help treat the condition.
If patients do not experience relief from special toothpastes, more invasive treatments provided by a dental care professional can help. Adding a bonding agent to seal the tooth or grafting new gum tissue in the case of receding gums will improve sensitivity.
If you notice extreme sensitivity it is best to discuss with Dr. Eric Wu, who can recommend alternative solutions during your treatment, no matter what the cause. At Wu Orthodontics we are always available for help. All you have to do is ask!