You and your teeth have a love-hate relationship. You love that your teeth help you eat and speak. But you hate adjusting your meals to minimise pain.
For example, you love nothing more than to sip a coca cola on a hot summer day. But you hate requesting no ice. Or you thoroughly enjoy a fresh slice of pizza straight out of the oven, but you hate waiting for that pizza to cool before you take a bite.
Tooth sensitivity can happen for a variety of reasons, including the ones listed below. Fortunately, you don't have to live with the pain for long when you make the right changes.
1. Over Brushing
Ever since you were a child, you knew that brushing your teeth was a good thing. But did you ever consider that you could brush too much or too hard?
When you use a hard-bristled brush or excessive force to scrub away those stubborn bits of food, you wear down the protective outer layer of your teeth, called the enamel. And when your enamel wears away, you expose microscopic tubes and canals that connect directly to your dental nerves.
Because your dental nerves are sensitive to temperature fluctuations, whenever you eat hot or cold foods, you suffer a brief but sharp burst of pain.
Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and use light repetitive motions to clean your teeth.
2. Acidic Foods and Drinks
If you're like many other Aussies, you enjoy the occasional soft drink now and again. Perhaps if a cola isn't available, you order lemonade at your favourite restaurant or some water with a slice of lemon or lime.
But all of these beverages have one thing in common: citric acid. Citric acid has a pH level of 2.2, while your teeth prefer a minimum pH of 5.5 or higher. Whenever you eat or drink acidic foods, the acids dissolve or demineralise your enamel. And once your enamel has worn away, you'll experience sensitivity whenever you eat acidic foods.
Avoid acidic foods such as tomatoes, grapefruit, lemons, pickles and kiwi. And rinse your mouth with water after you eat or drink these foods to balance your mouth's pH levels.
3. Bruxism (Teeth Grinding)
When you feel anxious, angry or upset, do you clench your teeth? Or do you wake up with a dull headache and tight jaw muscles after a restless night?
You could have bruxism. Bruxism is a technical term for teeth grinding and clenching. Some individuals grind their teeth when they sleep, and they don't know they have the condition unless a partner or a dentist tells them.
If left untreated, bruxism causes the teeth to flex and crack. And in some cases, it wears down the teeth and enamel, exposing the vulnerable dentin and sensitive nerve endings.
Wear a mouth guard when you go to bed to cushion your teeth from the impact. You may also want to consider stress management, behaviour therapy or muscle relaxants to ease the tension.
When soft drinks and coffee stain your teeth, you might try a variety of techniques to brighten your smile again. At-home bleaching kits, for example, can often lighten your teeth by several shades.
But the chemicals that fight stains also penetrate deep into your teeth, increasing blood flow and pressure in the tooth pulp. After bleaching you may experience mild pulpitis, which makes your teeth especially sensitive to stimuli. Typically the side effect only lasts for about two weeks after treatment.
Use a desensitising gel before and after whitening treatment, and only use whitening kits that your dentist recommends. Follow instructions carefully, and avoid staining foods (such as coffee or curry) that will counteract your bleaching treatment.
Still Have Sensitive Teeth?
If you still have sensitive teeth despite making changes in your life, talk to your dentist about the problem. He or she may find underlying medical conditions (such as gum disease or tooth decay) that cause the sensitivity. Your dentist may then recommend a different treatment to keep sensitivity at bay and improve your oral health.
Soon you'll learn to love your teeth, not hate them.