How to Care for Sensitive Teeth

Do you experience pain after consuming hot or cold foods and beverages? The Academy of General Dentistry estimates that around 40 million people in the United States have some degree of tooth sensitivity. What causes sensitive teeth? And how can you manage it? Your dentist can offer some solutions, but there are also things you can do at home to help.

  • Switch your toothpaste. Over-the-counter desensitizing toothpastes are made specifically to treat tooth sensitivity. These toothpastes have compounds that block the pain signals from your nerve endings to your brain and should decrease your sensitivity after a few uses.
  • Brush more gently. Cleaning your teeth too vigorously can wear off your enamel, increasing sensitivity. Additionally, using a stiff-bristled brush can make tooth sensitivity worse by causing microscopic holes in your enamel and worsening gum recession. Use a soft bristled toothbrush and brush gently, holding the brush at a 45 degree angle to the tooth.
  • Try some home remedies. A saltwater rinse can reduce inflammation, and hydrogen peroxide can act as an antiseptic and disinfectant to heal gums. Rinsing with honey and warm water can help your mouth heal, as honey is a natural antibacterial agent. Some people swear by oil pulling, swishing coconut oil around the mouth. Others use turmeric for pain and inflammation, massaging a paste made of turmeric into their gums. Cloves are a natural pain reliever with anti-inflammatory and germicidal properties. Using green tea as a mouthwash twice daily can strengthen teeth and reduce inflammation, and the capsaicin in hot peppers has analgesic properties when used as a topical gel or mouth rinse. Vanilla extract, applied to the gums with a cotton ball, can alleviate pain.
  • Mind your diet. While certain foods can help sensitive teeth, others can make the problem worse. Acidic foods like soda and coffee, as well as high-sugar foods and processed carbs, can attack enamel. Even some healthy foods, like citrus fruits and flavored yogurt, can cause enamel erosion. Snack on tooth-strengthening foods like fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, cheese, milk, and plain yogurt. Drinking green or black tea is good for your teeth, and chewing sugarless gum can stimulate saliva production, helping to protect enamel. If you’re going to drink something acidic, use a straw so that less liquid makes contact with your teeth. Note: if you consume something bad for your enamel, don’t rush to brush. Swish with water and wait an hour before brushing, to avoid further damaging the enamel.
  • Talk to your dentist. If sensitive teeth are troubling you, your dentist can find the cause. You may be grinding or clenching your teeth and need to wear a mouth guard or splint. Whitening treatments you’re receiving may be too harsh. A damaged tooth or gum disease can cause tooth sensitivity, so seeing your dentist can help address these issues. The dentist can also offer solutions like dental varnishes and sealants or even a root canal to fix the problem.

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