What Causes Sensitive Teeth & How to Help Tooth Sensitivity
Sensitive teeth are caused by enamel getting worn out, exposing your dentin, which is the layer directly underneath your enamel. There are ways to help sensitive teeth.
Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, can make everyday life feel unpleasant or even painful. The painful sensation of having sensitive teeth can be triggered by cold ice cream, flossing, biting an apple, or sipping sweet iced tea. According to a 2013 study published in The Journal of the American Dental Association, about 1 in 8 adults are affected by sensitive teeth—and those are the people who discuss the condition with their dentist! In other words, this is a common issue for many people.
Sensitive teeth are caused by enamel getting worn out, exposing your dentin, which is the layer directly underneath your enamel. The dentin protects and encapsulates the soft pulp of your tooth, where thousands of microscopic tubules lie. These tubules are filled with fluid and can be irritated by chemical, thermal, or osmotic change, such as eating acidic foods or drinking hot coffee, if the protective enamel is worn away. The movement of fluid in the tubules can trigger the nerves in your tooth, leading to painful sensations. This is called the hydrodynamic theory of pain, and it’s widely accepted as the cause for sensitive teeth.
I’ve said it before and I can never say it enough: Prevention is the best medicine. Here are my top recommendations for stopping tooth sensitivity before it happens and ruins your day:
Avoid acidic fruits and beverages
This includes citrus fruits and sodas—and even beer! If it has a pH level of less than 7, it’s acidic. In general, foods that are high in sugar tend to be acidic, so this is a great opportunity to cut out sugar, which negatively affects your oral and overall health anyway. Instead of soda, have a sugar-free seltzer or sparkling water.
Use soft-bristled toothbrushes
It’s not about how hard or aggressive you brush your teeth—it’s about brushing frequently and thoroughly and with the right technique. A soft-bristled toothbrush can rid your teeth of plaque without wearing down your enamel and causing sensitive teeth.
Use low-abrasive toothpaste
The right toothpaste formula can also help prevent and alleviate sensitive teeth. For example, some toothpastes contain potassium nitrate, which helps stop tooth sensitivity by desensitizing nerves through the build-up of potassium ions. Studies have also shown that toothpaste containing hydroxyapatite (HA), like RiseWell hydroxyapatite toothpaste, can also help block the tubules and desensitize them from painful sensations.
Maintain regular visits to your dental professionals
As a practicing dentist, I appreciate it when patients come to see me regularly and frequently, so we can treat oral care issues before they get worse—or even begin. Routine visits to your dentist can warn off tooth sensitivity and get you the best professional treatment possible.
By making small, positive changes to your daily life, you can stop sensitive teeth from ruining your day, too.
About Dr. Derek
He is not only Co-Founder of RiseWell. Dr. Derek Gatta is a partner at Dr Max & Dr Gatta PLLC in Boca Raton, Florida. If you are in the area, he is your go-to dentist!