Teeth sensitivity is an increasing concern for many patients that come into the dental office. Though tooth sensitivity is presented the same way, the reasons why you experience it aren’t always the same. Here are the most common causes for tooth sensitivity and how to prevent it.
If you are constantly eating acidic food and no source of remineralization is provided to allow your saliva to go back to the normal pH, erosion of the enamel will occur and contribute to teeth sensitivity. While many people are aware that sports drinks may erode teeth, sometimes people aren't as aware that a lot of healthy foods can do the same. Any acidic food, such as fruits (apples, grapes, blueberries, pineapples), citrus fruits (lemons, grapefruit, oranges), tomatoes and tomato juice, vinegar, and sauerkraut can all bring the pH level of your saliva to fall below a pH of 7.
• Use a straw when drinking acidic drinks.
• Rinse mouth after eating acidic food.
• Make sure to use a remineralizing toothpaste to brush at least twice a day.
2. Brushing Habits
Has your dentist ever mentioned that you are brushing too hard? Some reasons your gums are receding is because of your brushing habits. If you aren't using a soft toothbrush and putting too much force horizontally along the gums, it will result in wearing off the tooth enamel along the gum surface, wrestling in a v-shaped crater which is called tooth abfraction. It is important to use a soft bristle and gently brush back and forth in short strokes and place your toothbrush at a 45 degree angle to the gums as recommended by the American Dental Association.
• Use a soft bristle toothbrush.
• Learn the proper brushing techniques.
3. Tooth Decay
Hot and cold sensitivity are the most common symptoms of tooth decay. Lingering sensitivity to sweets or sugary drinks can also indicate tooth decay from damage to the enamel. If you notice a sharp pain that lingers when drinking or eating, it is recommended to see your dentist to check for any tooth decay. To prevent tooth decay, the most important step is daily care.
• Create a daily oral care ritual with proper flossing and brushing with a toothpaste with remineralizing agents such as fluoride or nano-hydroxyapatite.
• Have regular dentist visits for ups and cleanings.
• Cut back on sugary foods or acidic drinks, and drink water throughout the day.
4. Teeth Grinding
With increased stress and anxiety from the pandemic, dentists all over the world are seeing an increase in toothaches, swollen gums, and sensitivity from cracked teeth. Teeth grinding results in sensitivity due to the tooth enamel wearing away and exposing the tooth dentin. As a result, people will often wake up with a sore jaw or a headache. In order to prevent this, it is important to find ways to relieve stress. If there are no improvements, it is recommended to visit your dentist for a mouthguard to prevent cracked teeth.
• Do relaxing jaw exercises.
• Try mindfulness practices such as meditation with regular exercise.
• Cut back on alcohol or caffeinated drinks that contribute to anxiety and poor quality of sleep.
• Visit your dentist for a mouthguard.
5. Recent Dental Work
If you have had any recent dental fillings from tooth decay, it is common to experience sensitive teeth from drinking cold or hot drinks and they usually resolve within a few days or a couple of weeks. Oftentimes this is a normal repair process where the nerve is temporarily inflamed and causes the nerve endings to be irritated.
Another reason could be due to a high filling (incorrect bite). If you experience extra pressure of sensitivity only when biting, it is important to communicate this with your dentist for any adjustments. It is important to monitor if there is any worsening sensitivity that does not resolve or severe pain after the filling. When the filling is closer to the nerve, it may indicate an irreversible condition that may need a root canal, so do not hesitate to visit your dentist if the symptoms do not resolve.
• Give it a couple of weeks for your sensitive teeth to naturally resolve.
• If sensitivity does not resolve or worsen, visit your dentist.
6. Teeth Whitening Products
After teeth whitening procedures, patients may notice increased sensitivity for a temporary period, especially when drinking or even speaking. The aftercare matters too. Make sure you are using a toothpaste that contains remineralizing ingredients (fluoride or nano-hydroxyapatite) that prevent or help sensitivity. Though achieving those pearly whites in one sitting seems desirable, you need to pay attention to how your teeth feel and communicate all these with your dentist.
• Avoid bleaching your teeth too often.
• Consult with your dentist before using whitening products to avoid damage to your gums or teeth.
• Avoid hot temperature, cold food right after home or professional whitening procedure.
• Most importantly, don't over whiten.
7. Sinus Infections
Sometimes your sensitive teeth may not actually be related to your teeth. Sensitive teeth are a common symptom of sinusitis. This is due to the pressure from the congestion in the sinus spaces causing the upper teeth to feel sensitive. Since the roots of your upper teeth are near your sinuses, referred pain can occur. The sensitivity may worsen when lying down due to pressure shifts and patients are not able to local their pain to one tooth.