How can I prevent sensitive teeth?

Good home care, which includes frequent brushing and flossing of your teeth, and seeing your dentist twice a year is a good way to prevent teeth from becoming sensitive. There are toothpastes like Sensodyne and other brands that have desensitizers that can also both treat and prevent sensitive teeth.

Cavities and fractured teeth can cause sensitive teeth. But if your dentist has ruled these problems out, then worn tooth enamel, a cracked tooth or an exposed tooth root may be the cause.

Proper oral hygiene is the key to preventing gums from receding and causing sensitive-tooth pain. If you brush your teeth incorrectly or even over-brush, gum problems can result. Ask your dentist if you have any questions about your daily oral hygiene routine.

Good oral hygiene habits -- brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, daily flossing, and using a fluoride mouthwash -- can help protect the enamel of your teeth from demineralization and sensitivity. But sometimes more than that is needed. If you grind your teeth, a dentist can create a custom mouth guard to prevent cracks, which have been known to cause sensitivity. You might need to switch to a soft or extra soft bristled toothbrush. Soft drinks, alcohol, smoking, and other tobacco use can create sensitivity in your gums or teeth. Talk to your dentist about ways to help prevent sensitivity.

Sensitive teeth can be prevented by regular visits to the dentist and proper brushing and flossing. If the tooth has a cavity causing the sensitivity, it can be filled. If it has a crack causing the sensitivity, it can have a crown. If the tooth has an abscess causing the sensitivity, the tooth can have a root canal or be extracted. Teeth that are sensitive from receding gums and exposed roots can be treated with fluorides prescribed by the dentist and desensitizing medicines. Sometimes toothpastes for sensitive teeth can help. If you brux or grind your teeth, a bite guard can help prevent wear of the enamel which can lead to sensitive teeth. Keeping plaque off your teeth with proper brushing and flossing can help prevent sensitive teeth. Use a toothbrush with soft polished bristles and brush from the gum to the tooth in a circular motion. Improper brushing or using a hard bristle brush can remove enamel making teeth sensitive.

Umar Haque, DMD

These are all excellent answers thus far. However, there is one extremely important condition that leads to tooth sensitivity: a bite that is off. Our bite, or our occlusion, is vital to long term dental health. If a tooth is not biting in harmony with other teeth, it will likely become sensitive secondary to the beating it is undergoing by the opposing teeth. This can be simply tested in a dental office using articulating paper and proper evaluation. It can be one tooth or often multiple teeth that are not lining up with the opposing jaw, and this condition (sometimes called malocclusion) can be corrected with proper diagnosis and treatment planning. If your tooth or teeth are sensitive, have a dentist evaluate them and check your bite (also known as your occlusion).

Dan Jenkins
First, you should prevent cavities by brushing regularly, 2x a day, and thoroughly cleaning your teeth to remove food that will feed the bacteria that eat the leftovers in your mouth to produce acids that dissolve the teeth causing cavities. Second, you should avoid soda drinks as they have acid in them. If you do drink a soda it would be a good habit to rinse your mouth with water right after drinking the soda - and don't rinse your mouth with a soda!

You should also consider having your bite examined as there have been reports indicating a bad bite can lead to sensitive teeth since crooked teeth are like having crooked gears in a transmission causing pressures on the teeth leading to cracked teeth and receding gums. In addition to that, if you brush hard with a hard bristled toothbrush you can make matters worse!

There are many reasons why teeth become sensitive. Generally, having good oral hygiene can help prevent teeth from becoming sensitive from cavities and gum disease. However, even with good oral hygiene patient can have sensitive teeth. Para function (bruxing, grinding, clenching etc.) or malocclusion (non-harmonious bite) may also cause sensitive teeth. If this is the case then you may need a night guard or need to correct the malocclusion.      

The best way to prevent tooth sensitivity is with proper home care. Proper brushing and flossing is adequate for most people to prevent sensitivity. An alcohol-free mouth rinse is a great addition to brushing and flossing.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.