It's normal for your teeth to be a bit sensitive for a few days after you have a filling or some other dental procedure. That kind of sensitivity usually goes away on its own. But what about when your teeth have been sensitive for months or years with no reprieve? Are you doomed to a lifetime of avoiding warm beverages and frozen desserts? Luckily, you don't have to be. Here's a look at the steps you need to follow in order to reduce your tooth sensitivity.
Step 1: Switch to a softer toothbrush.
Tooth sensitivity is often caused or made worse by weakened or worn enamel. When your enamel wears away or is weakened, the nerve endings in the underlying dentin layer become exposed and are more able to detect hot and cold sensations. Many people use tooth brushes that are too hard, or they apply far too much pressure when they brush their teeth. Switch to a toothbrush that is labeled "soft", and you'll help end this enamel-wearing process, reducing your sensitivity. As long as you pick a toothbrush that has been given the ADA seal of approval, you can be confident that it will do its job.
Step 2: Use a sensitivity toothpaste.
Sensitivity toothpastes contain special ingredients that help seal the little dentin tubules that allow the hot and cold substances to come into contact with your nerve endings. Make sure the sensitivity toothpaste you choose also contains fluoride. The fluoride will help strengthen your enamel to fight and prevent sensitivity long-term. Use it according to the instructions on the package. Make sure you're brushing at least twice per day.
Step 3: See your dentist about a mouth guard.
Many patients can tie their sensitivity to grinding their teeth or clenching their jaws at night. These habits further wear down the enamel. Visit your dentist and tell him or her about the sensitivity. Your dentist will examine your teeth for signs that you clench or grind them. If there is evidence of clenching or grinding, you will be fitted with a mouth guard that you can wear at night to prevent this habit. Your sensitivity should subside as you continue wearing the mouth guard while also using a softer toothbrush and sensitivity toothpaste.
Do not use a generic mouth guard from the drugstore in place of one made by your dentist. These mouth guards may not fit properly for overnight and may actually make matters worse by slowly shifting your teeth out of place.
Step 4: Consider dental bonding or gum grafts.
If the tips above do not adequately reduce your sensitivity within a few weeks, it is time to talk to your dentist about more advanced treatment options. The first of these is known as dental bonding. It involves applying a tooth-colored resin over the portions of your teeth where the enamel is weak and exposed. The process is similar to getting a filling. The resin will prevent contact between any foods and beverages you consume and the nerve endings, reducing your sensitivity.
Sometimes sensitivity can be traced back to tooth roots that have become exposed due to a lack of gum tissue. The nerves are closer to the surface in the tooth roots than in the upper, crown portion of your teeth. When exposed tooth roots are to blame, your dentist may recommend a gum graft to add to your gum tissue. This is a minor surgical procedure, typically performed under local anesthesia, in which a small piece of tissue is removed from the roof of your mouth and affixed to your gums. You'll heal within a week or so, and your sensitivity should be greatly reduced since your tooth roots will be better covered.
If you have any other questions or concerns about tooth sensitivity and how to deal with it, speak with a dentist like Richard M Holmes DMD PA.