Most people have likely experienced tooth pain at some point in their lives. Unfortunately, for some, toothaches and tooth sensitivity can be a common occurrence—not a problem that arises every now and then (looking at you, cavities). The issue is that common causes of teeth sensitivity can mirror those that arise from graver problems like a cracked tooth, gum recession, a cavity, and gum disease.
In which case, what does tooth sensitivity mean? And what differentiates it from other conditions?
What Does Tooth Sensitivity Mean?
In Layman’s terms, tooth sensitivity is exactly as it sounds; hypersensitive teeth. But what exactly do we mean by the word “sensitive?” It’s a word used to describe the propensity your teeth have to being stimulated by:
- Food groups
Thus, if you’re banging your head wondering “why do I have tooth sensitivity,” then look to the below to see if it’s relatable.
Note: For the sake of this article, we will use “tooth sensitivity” for exactly what it is, a condition that isn’t spurred by cracks, cavities, or excessive tooth decay. Otherwise, these signs and symptoms of tooth sensitivity can also be indicative of other problems, which is why we recommend that you’re evaluated by a dentist.
Essentially, someone with tooth sensitivity will experience nerve stimulation when they:
- Eat or drink something cold – A cold glass water or a tub of ice cream can make someone wince in pain, or foster a dull toothache that persists once the liquid/food has been consumed.
- Eat or drink something hot – A steaming bowl of soup can have the same effect, making it hard to consume without irritating the tooth.
- Chewing – Oftentimes, it’s not temperature, food types, sugar, or acidity, but pressure that causes the symptoms of tooth sensitivity. If you’re experiencing tooth pain or discomfort while chewing, this could be a telltale sign.
- Sugars/Sours – Sour candy, dried fruit, foods that are high in sugar, someone with tooth sensitivity might have a difficult time consuming these types of contents.
- High Acidity – Carbonated drinks, sodas, and contents that are high in acidity can cause pain or discomfort in someone with tooth sensitivity.
- Breathe through your mouth – If you find that you’re experiencing discomfort when you breathe directly through your mouth, this could be that the cold air is simulating your nerves.
While these are the flagship symptoms of tooth sensitivity, it’s essentially categorized by anything that stimulates the teeth and causes pain or discomfort. For some people, this occurs throughout the day, seemingly without reason.
Why Do I Have Sensitive Teeth?
The diagnosis is tricky, because there isn’t one linear path that leads from healthy pearly whites to compromised sensitive teeth. Still, there’s integrity in the science—meaning, despite how it’s developed, what occurs in the tooth itself is ubiquitous.
There’s a nerve that lives inside each of your teeth. Your teeth, made mostly of calcium, blood vessels, and specialized cells, have an external layer called enamel. If the tooth enamel is compromised, then it exposes the cementum, or the second most protective layer. If both of those are weakened, then it exposes the dentin.
Dentin lives beneath the enamel and cementum and is home to a series of tubules, or microscopic canals that lead directly to your tooth’s nerve! If your dentin is exposed, then heat, cold, and food particles can travel directly to the “source,” ultimately stimulating it and causing the pain and discomfort associated with hyperactivity4.
Of course, there are myriad ways dentin can be compromised, but at its core this is typically the reason that sensitivity develops, continues, and thrives. Which means what, exactly?
To mitigate sensitive teeth, you need to protect the dentin. To protect the dentin, you have to protect the cementum. To protect the cementum…
You have to protect your tooth enamel!
How Do I Fix My Sensitive Teeth?
Fixing your sensitive teeth is a matter of being persistent and proactive with your oral hygiene. It also means doing a bit of self-evaluation to try to unravel or chart patterns. The more data you have, the easier it will be to link your sensitive teeth to a certain cause.
With that being said, below are a few common tooth sensitivity treatment options that people suffering from tooth sensitivity have used to mitigate their symptoms.
- Brushing Lighter | Lighter Brushes – Overzealous brushing has been proven to cause sensitive teeth. If you find that you’re experiencing pain when brushing your teeth, then try brushing lighter. Don’t have such a heavy hand. Instead:
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle (to the gums)
- Gently move it back in forth, using short strokes
- Brush the exterior, interior, chewing surfaces, and your tongue
Lastly, it could be that it’s not you, it’s the brush. Try using a toothbrush with softer bristles and see if that mitigates any of the symptoms you’re experiencing.
- Flossing | The Water Floss – If flossing hurts your gums or you’ve noticed that it’s becoming difficult amidst your symptoms, you need to find a way to do it gently. This is one of the reasons we engineered our ToothShower water flosser, as you can control the pressure and temperature from the comfort of your shower.
Try using our water flosser to ease the pressure on your gum tissue and protect your enamel. It could directly impact the symptoms you’re facing.
- Desensitizing Toothpaste – A desensitizing agent can do wonders for someone dealing with hypersensitivity. Clinically proven to yield its efficacy3, by keeping to a routine when using desensitizing toothpaste, you can mitigate (or completely alleviate) the symptoms brought forth by sensitive teeth. Oftentimes, a dentist will be able to recommend or prescribe an agent that pairs with your exact situation. This agent, once applied, will try to erect roadblocks in the tubules, not allowing these “responses” to activate.
- Using A Mouthguard – Tooth sensitivity isn’t exclusive to waning enamel health or receding gums, it can also be caused by teeth grinding (bruxism). If you’re someone that grinds their teeth and experiences sensitivity when chewing, then a mouthguard can be a game-changing solution.
Thus, if you use this mouthguard while you sleep (one of the primary times your teeth grind away like a machine), you can ease the pressure set upon your jaw, teeth, and neck. It can be a bit annoying to accustom to, but if you’re a teeth grinder and think your symptoms are linked, a mouthguard could help drastically.
- Avoid Acids! – Acidic foods and drinks are your enamel’s kryptonite. Dried fruit, fruit juice, soda, tomato sauce, and a laundry list of other substances can be a detriment to your enamel health. Thus, a diet change might be what rights your hypersensitivity. Try cutting down on highly acidic foods/liquids. Use this diet change as an inspiration to reshape and rethink what you’re putting into your body!
If a diet change isn’t part of your lifestyle, then just remember to be extra diligent when brushing. It’s the acid that’s left alone, sitting on your gum line, that does the most damage. If you have a diet that’s high in acidity, you need to be brushing, flossing, and rinsing your mouth out constantly.
- Sodium Fluoride – It could be that you’re not getting enough fluoride, a naturally-occurring mineral that helps strengthen enamel and protect your teeth. A fluoride gel will help strengthen your enamel and improve their resistance to acidity, bacteria, and wear and tear.
You can also seek the help of toothpastes that are high in fluoride1, as they can achieve the same results (and it might be easier to create routine, being that it’s when you brush).
- Visit Your Dentist – It shouldn’t be a surprise that visiting your dentist can fix your tooth sensitivity. First, they’ll be able to identify whether or not there’s a deeper issue at play. If a cavity and the likes of (including gum disease) are ruled out, they can then evaluate the health of your enamel and identify why these symptoms are occurring.
It’s not unlikely that, if they decide it’s tooth hypersensitivity, they recommend many of the solutions listed here in this article. In which case, no matter how light your symptoms, it’s always wise to seek the help of your dentist.
Tooth Sensitivity is Treatable!
We understand what a nuisance tooth sensitivity can be. No one wants to live in fear of ingesting certain foods, nor do they want to feel discomfort and pain throughout the day. To that end, you must remember that tooth sensitivity is treatable with the proper dental care!
For moderate cases, it’s simply a process of elimination. What fixes something for someone might not work for someone else, and vice versa. Thus, in a quick review, you should:
- Brush frequently, but lighter
- Use a water flosser
- Try a desensitizing agent
- Use a mouthguard (if you grind your teeth)
- Avoid acids
- Up your fluoride intake
- Visit your dentist
If you’re looking for a way to gently floss your teeth (one that allows you to control both the temperature and pressure) then here at ToothShower we can solve that problem. Reach out today to hear about our water flosser! It might just be one of the solutions that mitigates your teeth sensitivity.
- Business Insider. The best toothpaste for sensitive teeth. https://www.businessinsider.com/best-toothpaste-for-sensitive-teeth
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. Evaluate of the clinical efficacy of potassium nitrate desensitizing mouthwash, and a toothpaste in the treatment of dentinal hypersensitivity.
- MedicalNewsToday. Home remedies for sensitive teeth. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324731.php
- ADA. Sensitive teeth causes and treatment. https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/Files/patient_33.pdf?la=en