How to Treat Sensitive Teeth

Dealing with sensitive teeth can be a real pain. Suffering from this condition may mean avoiding favorite foods or preferred pastimes. Since there are many different causes that contribute to overly sensitive dentition, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your dentist. There are ways to treat pain both at home and in your doctor’s office, but only a professional can really get to the root of the problem!

group of friends smiling together

If your teeth have suddenly become temperature-sensitive, it may be a symptom of a more severe problem. At the offices of Meredith Davis, DDS, we know how important it is to manage tooth pain and find the reason behind it. Current and future patients in the Richardson, TX area can contact us for a consultation today!

Essential Enamel

Sensitive teeth can be a real issue because they can interfere with everyday life. At the core of each tooth lies the pulp, encasing a delicate nerve that helps to transmit changes in temperature and pressure. There are several layers that serve to protect that pulp from extremes. Enamel is the strong outer layer that, if breached, may allow cold or hot food, drinks, and even air to aggravate the nerve inside the pulp.

If not cared for properly, this protective layer can be damaged or worn away. Enamel loss makes teeth very sensitive to even the slightest of changes. Cavities expose the inner layers, leaving them vulnerable. Fissures in teeth also allow liquids and air to bypass the enamel’s protection, and may even grow larger with time. It’s important to not only take care of excessive discomfort but also identify the reason to prevent further damage from occurring.

Causes for Sensitive Teeth

Because it can be scraped or rotted away, enamel can be compromised in different ways. Any action or substance that works to reduce or weaken the protective layer may result in overly sensitive teeth. Some of the more common sources of enamel loss include:

  • Cavities
  • Dental procedures
  • Chipped teeth
  • Cracked/fractured dentition
  • Tooth grinding
  • Worn fillings
  • Gum disease

Even excessively vigorous brushing can cause gums to recede, giving bacteria more surface area to eat away at your dentition’s protection. Cracked teeth are especially vulnerable to pressure as the tooth actually rubs against itself! Tooth whitening products may also be a culprit since many unreputable methods remove staining by stripping away layers of enamel. Since there are so many reasons why your teeth may have suddenly become sensitive, it’s important to see a dentist and fix the underlying issue instead of simply attempting to alleviate pain.

Self-Care

Even if tooth pain has a specific root cause, an immediate trip to the dentist may not be possible. Many people even hope the condition goes away on its own. For some patients, they won’t have long to wait. Pain that stems from dental work such as cavity fillings or overlays tends to remain only for a week or two. The sensitivity should lessen as the affected area heals, though if it continues for too long you should contact your dentist in case there are any complications.

For other clients, there are ways to help alleviate the pain as you wait for your appointment to arrive. There are quite a few at-home or commercially available treatments that will help lessen or even temporarily eliminate excessive sensitivity for a time, such as:

  • Sensitivity-Reducing Toothpaste: Many name brands offer a type of toothpaste specifically for patients with thinner enamel or similar issues. Using ingredients such as potassium nitrate, this remedy helps block pain signals from your teeth to the brain.
  • Lighter Brushing: Using a stiff-bristled toothbrush and brushing your teeth too vigorously can actually do more harm to your dentition than good. Treating your teeth too roughly can wear down enamel and harm your gums, creating areas that may become extra sensitive.
  • Rinsing With Salt Water: Using salt as an antiseptic may help to reduce swelling and alleviate pain. A gargle and rinse twice a day with a mix of ½ teaspoon of salt with a glass of warm water should produce results quickly.
  • Green Tea: Another excellent option for rinsing, green tea has many properties that will help to strengthen your teeth and reduce inflammation. It also makes a healthy drink that will benefit your entire body!
  • Turmeric: Used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory, ground turmeric can be massaged directly onto the gums to help alleviate pain. You can also make a paste combining salt, turmeric, and mustard oil that can be applied to both teeth and gums twice daily to great effect.
  • Honey: A natural antimicrobial, honey is a great option for accelerating healing and reducing pain. Using it as a rinse in warm water will help to restore the natural protection caused by decay or breakage.
  • Vanilla Extract: People often turn to vanilla for pain relief, especially in infants. Put some extract onto a cotton ball and hold it against the injured tooth to help with swelling as often as you need to.

It is important to remember that these solutions are temporary and only deal with the symptoms, not the problem itself. If pain persists, make sure you contact your dentist for a checkup to see what may be causing your discomfort. Ignoring the actual issue may lead it to become much worse. Cavities may grow and chip away parts of teeth while cracks and fissures may become larger, requiring more invasive procedures to repair.

Preventive Practices

The best way to keep your teeth looking healthy and feeling strong is through proper oral hygiene and regular dental checkups. Even so, the foods we drink and the activities we engage in may have an adverse effect on our dental health. While accidental damage can’t always be prevented, there are a number of tactics you can utilize to prevent further damage. 

  • Use a softer toothbrush to avoid abrasions and irritation of your teeth and gums.
  • Brush more gently, holding your toothbrush at a 45° angle to clean plaque away from your teeth instead of scrubbing off the enamel.
  • Use a mouthguard at night if tooth-grinding is an issue for you.
  • Stay away from highly acidic foods and drinks that may dissolve enamel away.
  • Schedule biannual dental cleanings to examine wear and preemptively look for areas of concern

By changing certain habits and avoiding problematic foods and actions, you can help ensure your teeth stay strong and keep sensitivity at bay. Your dentist may have other ideas that may alleviate pain and help you enjoy the foods and experiences that you might avoid thanks to tooth sensitivity.

group of friends smiling together while at brunch

Professional Methods

A qualified dentist will be able to determine the reasons behind your sensitive teeth. Because it can be caused by a variety of issues, there are a number of solutions that may work best depending on your particular circumstances. Your doctor may recommend several procedures, such as:

  • Mineral Treatments: There is a reason why so many cities add fluoride to the drinking water. They can help strengthen tooth enamel and block pain and can be applied during your appointment or even using at-home trays with prescription products.
  • Dental Bonding/Desensitizing: An exposed root surface can be treated using a specialized bonding resin. This acts as artificial enamel to keep sensitivity at bay.
  • Gum Grafts: A loss of gum tissue can reveal the underlying root surface. By taking a small amount of tissue from a healthy area, your dentist can graft or attach it to the exposed site, covering the tooth and reducing sensitivity.
  • Filling: A cavity rots enamel off of your teeth, leaving the inner surface exposed and waiting for a nice, cool drink to come in contact with the delicate pulp inside. Filling the cavity seals and protects the tooth from exposure as well as staving off further cavity growth.
  • Root Canal: Though its name may inspire anxiety in most patients, root canals are relatively routine procedures that are often the most effective treatment for excessive pain and sensitivity. 
  • Mouth Guard: Bruxism is the medical term for nighttime teeth grinding, a practice that can wear down enamel and even crack or break teeth. Your dentist may recommend using a mouthguard to help keep your teeth from gnashing while you rest.

Once your dentist has found the true culprit, they will know how to treat your sensitive teeth most effectively. While your teeth may still be susceptible to changes in temperature and pressure, these aftereffects should dissipate after a few days. Then you can get back to drinking a nice warm hot cocoa after hitting the slopes in the frigid mountain air!

Sensitive Care from Meredith Davis, DDS

No one should have to deal with sensitive teeth on a regular basis. If you live in the Richardson, TX area and are suffering from excessive pain and sensitivity, don’t wait to call us to schedule an appointment today. Our expert staff is waiting to help you get back to the things you love to do while wearing a smile you can be proud of!

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