Sensitive teeth can be a big disruption from your day. They can make everyday activities like eating your favorite foods or enjoying a cool refreshing drink painful. If you have sensitive teeth, you may have considered purchasing a toothpaste marketed specifically for relieving sensitivity. But do they work? And is it worth the added cost to purchase one? Are there any risks?
If you have sensitive teeth, here are a few things you might like to know before heading to the store and picking up a tube.
Reasons for Tooth Sensitivity
Tooth sensitivity can be caused by several things, but (spoiler alert) each one is a sign that you need to get your teeth looked at by a professional dentist. Here are a few of the main contributors:
You’ve Got Plaque Attack
The foods and drinks that we consume each day can cause bacteria and plaque to build-up on our teeth. The longer these foods sit, the thicker the build-up. Eating foods that are particularly high in acid and sugar can cause the most damage to your teeth, as plaque made of these is quick to attack your enamel. When enamel is eroded, the dentin layer underneath it is exposed.
Unlike enamel, with its firm and smooth surface, dentin is softer and contains channels from outside the tooth to the inner root and nerve. Now that these channels are exposed, foods that are especially hot, cold or acidic can cause pain and sensitivity in the tooth.
You’re Brushing Too Hard
While a little elbow grease may be all you need to clean those baseboards or get your car sparkling clean, the same is not true for your teeth. Your teeth should indeed be cleaned often and thoroughly, but gentleness is key. Brushing too hard can accidentally have you joining forces with plaque, in tearing down your enamel layer. Instead, grab your favorite toothpaste and let its gentle abrasiveness do its work.
Instead of trying to buff away stains and germs, focus on using small light circular motions. Switching from a hard to soft bristle brush will help out too. Your toothpaste will do the rest.
You’re Not Flossing Enough
Similarly to brushing too hard or suffering from tooth decay, failure to floss can lead to dentin exposure. Foregoing flossing as part of your daily oral routine can allow gums to become infected and possibly recede. If gum recession does occur, tooth sensitivity is a likely side consequence.
You Grind Your Teeth
You might immediately think, “No way, I never grind my teeth!” Perhaps you are right and your tooth sensitivity is caused by other factors, or maybe you grind your teeth in your sleep. You are not alone.
One problem with tooth grinding, during the night or day, is that it wears down that precious enamel layer. You may notice by now that the enamel is a pretty precious part of your tooth. As strong as enamel is, your jaw is stronger and as you clench and grind your teeth, you may also be grinding down that vital protective layer.
If you believe you may grind your teeth when sleeping, you may want to reach out to your dentist and discuss the possibility of getting an occlusal guard to help protect your teeth and jaw from any damage.
You’re Eating Sugary and Acidic Foods
Consuming foods that are high in sugar (like cakes, soda, fruit juices, cookies, and candy) or foods high in acidity (like oranges, lemons, grapefruit or other citrus) can be especially damaging to your enamel as they love sticking to your teeth as they encourage plaque build-up. If you are unable to avoid these types of foods and beverages, it is best to brush immediately after their consumption.
You’re Overusing Mouthwash
Before you pop the cap of your mouthwash and get ready to pour it down the drain, hear us out! Mouthwash use is not inherently bad. In fact, it can help improve your teeth by getting into places your toothbrush can’t, washing food particles out of your teeth, and even help with saliva production.
The issue arises when you use mouthwashes which contain alcohol or other unnecessary chemicals that can create sensitivity. If your enamel structure has already been compromised, you may need to cut back on these types of rinses and keep up the brushing and flossing.
You’ve Got a Cracked Tooth or Crown
A chipped or damaged tooth or crown can cause mild to severe pain in and around the area. If the damaged tooth or crown has left a nerve exposed, you are especially likely to experience sensitivity. In this case, a toothpaste for sensitive teeth is not likely to be effective and a dental professional should be contacted to repair or remove the affected tooth.
You Have a Sinus Infection
If you notice that pain you suspected was coming from your teeth continues up into your sinuses, forehead, either side of your nose, or between your eyes, you may not be dealing with an issue in the tooth at all. Rather, you may have a sinus infection.
The pressure caused by congestion and swelling within the sinus can easily travel down, affecting the comfort of your gums, teeth, and jaw. Rather than pursue a toothpaste for sensitive teeth, you may want to schedule a visit to your doctor or look into purchasing over-the-counter decongestants.
You’ve Undergone Teeth Whitening Treatments
We all want a beautiful white smile. But many of the available treatments for improving the look and color of your teeth contain harsh bleaches that can be bad for our teeth and gums. If you are experiencing sensitivity after a recent whitening treatment containing peroxide or bleach, this may be your culprit.
Rather than frequenting chairside whitening sessions or scanning grocery store shelves for treatments, you may want to find a safe and effective whitening toothpaste like this one, instead. These are able to improve the color of your teeth while keeping them healthy and protected.
You’ve Got Acid Reflux
If you have acid reflux or GERD, another name for Gastroesophageal reflux disease, it may be contributing to tooth sensitivity. This is because reflux causes stomach acids to travel back up the esophagus and affect your teeth. Just like when ingesting acidic foods, this high acid content can do damage to the enamel on your teeth, causing sensitivity.
Your Fillings Need To Be Redone
If you think you are feeling sensitivity or pain in a tooth that has already had a dental restoration placed, you may not be imagining it. Over time, fillings can deteriorate, become chipped or cracked. If this occurs, it is possible for tooth decay to happen under the fillings, especially if openings exist around the edges of the damaged filling. Additionally, food particles may become trapped between the tooth and filling, thus exacerbating the process of tooth decay.
Generally, fillings can be replaced. Contact your dentist for an appointment to examine the old fillings.
Is Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth Effective and Worth it?
The short answer here is: Only for the short term. Yes, toothpaste created for sensitive teeth can assist in managing pain associated with many of the sensitivity causes above.
Here is how sensitive toothpaste works:
The three most common active ingredients in sensitive toothpaste are Potassium Nitrate (what we use in our toothpaste!), Stannous Fluoride, and Strontium Chloride. These ingredients work by temporarily covering openings in your teeth and/or numbing the nerves so that pain is no longer felt.
Desensitizing toothpaste works well as an eays and effective topical solution to relieve the feeling of pain caused by exposed channels or openings in the teeth.
However, it’s important to note that sensitivity caused by larger issues like a cracked tooth, gum disease, or infected pulp is not fixed by desensitizing toothpaste, so it’s still important to see a dentist regardless.
Can Tooth Sensitivity be Prevented?
Certainly! If you manage any health conditions you may have (like GERD, for example) that may be contributing to tooth sensitivity, avoid high acid foods, prioritize regularly scheduled dental visits to check up on old fillings and crowns, and maintain structured and frequent oral care rituals, you can bring logenvity to the health of your teeth, keep your enamel strong, and desensitize your teeth.
And we want to give you just one more important reminder to use fluoride toothpaste! Thankfully, our toothpaste here at Twice has both fluoride and potassium nitrate to give you cavity protection and sensitivity relief with twice the active ingredients and twice the protection, without any of the unnecessary ingredients you simply don't need but will find in a lot of popular toothpaste brands.
When To See a Doctor
It may be time to see a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms related to sensitivity.
- Intense, throbbing or sharp pain that lasts for longer than 48 hours
- Pain that is unresponsive to at home treatments or over-the-counter medicines
- Fever in conjunction with tooth or jaw pain
A dental or medical professional should be able to examine you, possibly take X-Rays of the mouth and jaw, and diagnose your discomfort, creating an appropriate treatment plan.