Sensitive teeth are more than just a nuisance. They can change the way you eat and drink, causing you to avoid some of your favorite things. But you do not have to live with sensitivity. Here are some of the ways you can fight sensitive teeth.
Try Over-the-Counter Products
Many products available over-the-counter claim to help fight tooth sensitivity. In order to choose the right product, you need to understand one of the most common causes of sensitivity and the ingredients used to fight it.
Strengthen the Teeth
For many people, the sensitivity of their teeth is the result of a process called demineralization. This is the weakening and softening of tooth enamel and the underlying dentin by acids in the mouth. An acidic pH can come from disease-causing bacteria, an acidic diet, or acid reflux. As enamel weakens, it does not perform its job of insulating the nerve inside the tooth.
In order to fight this type of sensitivity, you need ingredients that reverse this process and promote the opposite, which is remineralization. The ingredients which function best as remineralizing agents are fluoride, nanohydroxyapatite (nHa), amorphous calcium phosphate (ACP), and arginine. Obviously, fluoride has been around the longest and is easiest to find. Each of these ingredients functions to re-harden enamel and strengthen enamel to fight the attacks of acid, which lead to sensitivity. The other ingredients listed above may not be as readily available in your local drugstore, but you can order them online.
Numb the Nerves
A different method of fighting sensitivity is to use products that act by “turning off” the nerves inside the teeth. You will probably recognize the name Sensodyne, which is a well-established brand of anti-sensitivity toothpaste. The active ingredient in Sensodyne is a chemical called Potassium Nitrate, which has a numbing effect on the nerves inside the teeth. The only downside to this type of product is that it usually requires consistent use for about two weeks before you notice an improvement in your sensitivity.
There are many brands available in addition to Sensodyne that contain this sensitivity-fighting ingredient. Toothpastes that contain both potassium nitrate and fluoride will fight the sensitivity from both angles.
Protect Against Bruxism
A lesser-known cause of sensitive teeth is bruxism, which is the scientific term for heavy clenching and/or grinding of the teeth. The heavy forces of bruxism can lead to a hypersensitivity of the nerves within the teeth. Typically, this causes a generalized sensitivity of all of the teeth. If the bite is noticeably uneven, then you could experience higher levels of sensitivity on teeth that seem to have more pressure when biting together. Most people experience relief from sensitivity when they begin protecting the teeth from these heavy forces during sleep.
The best protection is a custom-fitted hard acrylic nightguard made by your dentist. By separating the teeth with a hard barrier, you cannot generate such high levels of force between your upper and lower jaws. By relieving the pressure from the teeth, eventually, the nerves inside recover from the hypersensitivity.
Talk to Your Dentist
If over-the-counter products are not relieving your symptoms of sensitive teeth, make an appointment to talk to your dentist. The first thing we must do is rule out any active dental problems (like exposed roots and cracked teeth) that can make teeth extremely sensitive. Identifying the underlying cause of sensitivity helps us pinpoint the correct method of treatment when OTC products do not fix the problem.
When the cause of the sensitivity is a specific tooth, we may recommend dental treatment to correct the problem. This could involve covering over an exposed root with a perfectly matched, bonded filling material. This seals the “pores” in the tooth’s root, preventing the sensations from reaching the nerve within. Cracked teeth require coverage by a dental crown to seal the crack and prevent further damage.
In the absence of active dental problems, your dentist can prescribe specific products, such as mouthwash, toothpaste and gels, that are not available over-the-counter. Many people experience relief from sensitivity by wearing prescription gels in overnight custom-fitted trays to keep the ingredient in contact with the teeth all night.
More Questions about Sensitive Teeth?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists today to schedule a consultation with our doctors regarding your sensitive teeth. We can identify the underlying cause of your sensitivity and recommend specific products or treatments that will relieve your discomfort.