Do you know the feeling of taking a drink that’s unbearably cold or sipping on soup that’s really hot, and suddenly it feels like a shock to your tooth?! You might be experiencing the effects of sensitive teeth. Also known as dentine hypersensitivity, sensitive teeth are a common problem for many people. Often times, the root of the problem is that the enamel that encases the teeth begins to erode. While enamel erosion occurs naturally over time, it speeds up due to things like oral care and dietary habits. So. what are the solutions for sensitive teeth?
Once the enamel begins to thin, the inside of the tooth becomes exposed. The layer below enamel is a substance called dentin, and within the dentin are tiny tubes that are filled with even tinier nerve endings. These are what fire up when they come into contact with things that are hot, cold, acidic, sweet and so on.
What are the main Sensitivity symptoms
Sensitivity symptoms can come and go, can vary in terms of severity but can often get worse over time without orthodontic treatment. Problems like overbites can cause excess wear to the teeth, causing them to break down rapidly, exposing the dentin and causing sensitivity.
Sensitive teeth can occur for several reasons. The most common are:
- Brushing too hard—This is a common habit and can be made worse by using a toothbrush with rigid bristles. It quickly wears down the enamel on the teeth and the gum tissue, leading to sensitivity.
- Erosion—Teeth naturally wear down throughout life, but it happens more quickly when a person consumes lots of sugar and acidic food and drinks. Overbites are also a huge contributor to tooth erosion.
- Decay—Caused by poor oral care, aging teeth, worn out fillings and broken teeth that exposes a tooth’s inner substance.
- Grinding—A person often doesn’t know that they have this destructive habit since it often happens when they sleep, but grinding your teeth wears down the protective layers.
- Bleaching—White teeth are attractive but everything in moderation! Too much regular whitening treatment, either professional or home kits, can increase tooth sensitivity.
- Dental treatment—Cosmetic or orthodontic treatments can put teeth under distress and heighten teeth sensitivity.
Whether you are undergoing orthodontic treatment like braces or not, here are some things you can do to decrease your chances of sensitive teeth or at least slow the progression of these painful symptoms:
- Brush gently and with a soft bristled brush and use desensitizing toothpaste—there are plenty of toothpaste options available at the drug store.
- Rinse and floss regularly, which takes some extra practice if you have braces—don’t let this deter you!
- Protect your teeth from grinding. This might require getting fitting for a nightguard.
- Reduce your intake of sugary, acidic things like soda, coffee and alcohol.
- Visit your dentist. Once you start noticing symptoms, you should call and book an appointment to make sure your teeth are not suffering from decay, gum recession, or something that should be tended to.
- Visit your orthodontist – make sure that your bite is well balanced and that your teeth are not wearing down due to an unstable bite (which many people do not realize they have!)
If you have any questions or are experiencing tooth sensitivity during your orthodontic treatment, please give us a call sooner than later. We want to make sure all of our patients are comfortable!
Dr. Lesley Williams is a Certified Specialist in Orthodontics. She grew up in Victoria, BC with her parents and two sisters.
After being awarded her Doctor of Medical Dentistry (DMD) degree in 1989, Dr. Williams then spent six years as a dentist in general practice before deciding that she wanted to further her education by undertaking three extra years of highly specialized training in orthodontics. With her Masters in Science (Orthodontics) degree under her belt, she went on to sit the Orthodontic Specialty Fellowship exams through the Royal College of Dentists of Canada. To date, her status as an active leader in the orthodontic profession means that she holds the following qualifications and positions:
- Certified Specialist in Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics
- Fellow of the Royal College of Dentists of Canada
- Diplomate of the American Board of Orthodontics
- Examiner for the Royal College of Dentists of Canada and the American Board of Orthodontics.
- Former president of the Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists (representing 2900 orthodontists from the 4 western Canadian provinces and 8 western American states).
- Active member of the Edward H. Angle Society of Orthodontists.