This frigid, frozen, February weather affects us all in different ways. Some of us embrace the cold and enjoyable winter activities like tobogganing and skiing while others prefer to hunker down in front of a nice cozy, warm fireplace. There is one thing we probably all have in common however, and that is a dislike of cold sensitivity in our teeth. This cold February weather brought cold, sensitive teeth to mind so today the Brinkley Blog (brought to you by the Brampton based Dental office of Brinkley Dental) will discuss what to do about sensitive teeth.
The first misconception we should probably clear up is that teeth, while more often sensitive to cold, can be sensitive to excessive heat as well. For most of us, enjoying a frosty milkshake, treating ourselves to ice cream, or a biting into a popsicle on a warm summer day can actually be a painful experience. For others however, even that warming cup of hot chocolate after the ski run can cause pain.
What causes sensitive teeth? Typically, teeth are sensitive “because their protective outer layers—enamel over the crown, or cementum over the root—have worn away.” (1) Through erosion, the tooth’s dentin is exposed and this is what causes the discomfort and pain. Dentin is full of microscopic tubes with sensitive nerve endings running through them so this exposure leaves the nerve endings susceptible to extreme temperatures.
What can you do about your sensitive teeth? The team here at Brinkley suggest these helpful tips:
- Sensitive toothpaste – Toothpaste specifically designed to reduce sensitivity CAN work in many instances. The trick is to use it all the time, not just when you are feeling the pain. In this way it helps to build up resistance. Most people don’t use it nearly long enough. If you are making the switch to a toothpaste designed to combat sensitivity, be prepared for a long term commitment!
- Soft bristle brush – choose a brush with softer bristles and don’t brush quite so vigorously. Harsh brushing will actually fast-track the erosion process. Softer brushing, for a full two minutes, three times a day is recommended.
- Avoid acidic foods/drinks – This might be easier said than done if your favourite beverage is wine and you’re in love with oranges. What you can do however is consider drinking your orange juice through a straw to minimize contact with your teeth or brush your teeth after consuming acidic food or beverages. The trick here is NOT to brush immediately after consumption but to wait about 20 minutes. This is because the acid actually makes your teeth more susceptible to erosion so if you were to brush right after consumption you might do more harm than good.
- You can ask us here at Brinkley or speak to your Dentist about treatments that coat the teeth, including fluoride and/or bonding treatments.
- Bruxism – or teeth grinding, discussed in our last blog, can aggravate sensitive teeth so take measures to reduce grinding at night by considering using a mouth guard.
As always, a visit to the Dentist should be your first plan of action. He or she can make sure there is nothing else going on with the teeth like a chipped tooth, cracked enamel, a repaired cavity that is now eroding or a problem at the roots. Cold or heat sensitivity, especially when it is extreme or comes on suddenly, might mean there is something more serious going on. If it turns out there isn’t anything extreme causing your pain, no problem, since you are already at the Dentist anyway you can discuss which of these other treatment options might work best for your sensitive teeth! Stay warm friends and as always, ”don’t forget to be a BFF with your mouth and Brush that SMILE!”