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What can I do to reduce my tooth sensitivity?

There are many reasons teeth can be sensitive. Proper diagnosis will lead to proper treatment. It could be one cause or a combination of causes. The following are some causes: Poor Oral hygiene, gum disease, abrasion/abfraction, bruxism, cavities, trauma, recession, malocclusion etc... See your dentist for a full evaluation for sensitivity and the best treatment options.

First, see your dentist. Your sensitivity could be coming from a cavity. Receding gums can also cause tooth sensitivity. When gums recede the root of the tooth becomes exposed. Since the root is not covered with enamel, it is more sensitive to hot and cold foods. Sensitivity for exposed roots can be treated with over the counter tooth pastes for sensitive teeth and fluorides. Your dentist can advise you what would be best for your teeth. Your dentist can also advise you as to the cause of the recession of the gums. It could be due to improper brushing, orthodontics, and gritting and grinding the teeth. If gritting or grinding is suspected, a biteguard can be made to protect the teeth and gums from further recession. In brushing, a soft bristle tooth brush should be used brushing from the gum to the tooth.

First an accurate diagnosis must be made as to the cause of the sensitivity. The dentist will ask you questions as to what makes the tooth sensitive(symptoms). the dentist may then evaluate the area by looking, palpating, percussing and possibly having you bite on cotton, wooden stick and/or a tooth sleuth. Hot and cold may be placed on the teeth to see if any response is elicited. The sensitivity may be from a cavity in the tooth, a fracture, an infection, root sensitivity or a traumatic bite.

Don't let sensitive teeth ruin your smile. Watch as Dr. Maria Lopez Howell explains how to make your teeth less sensitive when you brush.


Romesh Nalliah
Dentist

There are many causes of tooth sensitivity and each cause has a unique method of treatment. A consultation with your dentist will help identify the cause and the solution. These are some of the most common causes and their solutions:

  1. Plaque accumulation can make gums and teeth sensitive. Good oral hygiene through effective flossing and brushing will improve these symptoms. Your hygienist or dentist will be able to instruct you on the best way to maintain your teeth.
  2. Cavities can cause sensitivity and can be remedied with dental restorations placed by the dentist.
  3. A hard toothbrush can accelerate the abrasion of tooth structure and switching to a soft toothbrush can reduce sensitivity.
  4. Gingival recession can cause sensitivity and can be managed by using desensitizing toothpastes, professional application of desensitizing agents or a gingival graft (in severe cases). An important "trick" with the desensitizing toothpastes is to spit out the excess but do not rinse! Leave the residue of the paste in your mouth because this will help to cure the sensitivity.
  5. Post-operative sensitivity can occur soon after having a dental restoration is placed and should "heal" within 2-3 days. If this lasts more than 3 days or is severe you should consult your dentist. 
  6. Tooth grinding can make teeth very sensitive and the diagnosis and treatment can be complex. A consultation with a dentist is an important starting point to treatment.
The first step to take in addressing tooth sensitivity is having a dentist examine your teeth, to take care of any areas of decay or possibly cracked or broken teeth. If those issues have been addressed, and you just have sensitivity that is not lingering or painful, you can do a few things yourself, such as using a sensitive formula toothpaste. These pastes are usually very effective, but it may take a few weeks for you to feel any result. You should avoid tartar control toothpaste, because the additive that fights tartar build up can actually make your teeth more sensitive. Another good thing to do at home is rinse with a fluoride rinse, which fortifies the enamel and possibly exposed dentin, which will make it less sensitive.

You should talk with your dentist if your sensitivity persists, and they may recommend home fluoride treatments, or treat your sensitive teeth with a fluoride varnish in the office. This is painless and effective for several months.  

There are some "home remedies" that actually may alleviate some tooth sensitivity. You can try sensitive toothpastes, fluoride rinses, soft toothbrushes, making sure your teeth are clean from plaque, etc. One commonly overlooked cause of tooth sensitivity is the use of chewing tobacco. Any other habit that you might think you have and then talk to your Dentist about it, as it may be a sign of a more serious condition.

Tooth sensitivity can usually be reduced by treating dental problems such as cavities, cracked teeth, worn teeth, and gum disease. In addition to treating the underlying problem, your dentist may recommend a desensitizing toothpaste. You may need to use the toothpaste for a few weeks before you notice a difference. Your dentist may also suggest office treatments using a fluoride gel or desensitizing agents. 

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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.