Considering you’re already reading this article, it’s probably not because you’ve stumbled upon it and thought “Sensitive teeth? That sounds like a fun read!” You’re more likely to be in search of alleviating the suffering from short, shooting pangs every time you brush or when you drink/eat something hot or cold, spicy, sweet, slightly acidic… and the list could probably go on for a bit. For some people, the hypersensitivity can be so intense that even opening their mouth on a windy day causes an uncomfortable tingling sensation. As suggested by the title, we’ll explain the causes of tooth sensitivity so you can get properly acquainted with the root of the problem and tackle it accordingly. Luckily, the condition can significantly improve or even be completely cured.
The causes of tooth hypersensitivity
The sudden sharp pains come as a result of exposed either dentin (the tooth layer underneath the enamel) or cementum (the layer covering the root of the tooth, which gets exposed if the gum line recedes). Having been left unprotected from outside effects, these layers can’t prevent substances reaching the nerves inside the tooth via channels, so the nerves respond by triggering pain. Hence, the causes of tooth sensitivity vary, depending on whether the enamel or gum line has been damaged:
Bruxism, or tooth grinding is a common condition that causes the tooth enamel to wear away, leaving the dentin exposed.
Gum disease (such as gingivitis) results in inflamed gum tissue pulling away from the tooth so that cementum gets exposed.
Tooth-whitening products contain harsh chemicals that can damage the enamel.
Acidic food and drinks can also cause tooth sensitivity, because acid encourages enamel reduction (this also stands for some over-the-counter mouthwashes that are high in acids).
Excessive tooth brushing or using hard-bristled brushes damages gums and wears away protective layers.
Along with these common causes, restorative dental procedures, such as professional cleaning and root planting, can also make the teeth sensitive, but the issue wears away within four to six weeks.
Treatment and prevention
Keeping in mind the causes we have previously listed, here are the ways to treat and/or prevent tooth hypersensitivity:
Bruxism often occurs during sleep as a result of an abnormal bite, crooked teeth, stress or sleep apnea, so the best way to prevent degrading enamel is to wear a custom-fitted mouth guard at night.
Avoid acidic food and drinks for a while at least, and use a straw when drinking anything other than water to avoid further exposure.
Avoid tooth-whitening products.
Most importantly, in order to avoid gum disease and enamel corrosion, brush your teeth properly and don’t overdo it with the pressure or frequency– twice a day is enough. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoridated desensitizing toothpaste. Neutral fluoride mouthwashes are also welcome.
Apply fluoride gel or toothpaste topically on exposed tooth roots before going to sleep.
Natural remedies for sensitive teeth
To feel better quickly, try the following natural remedies at home.
Swish a spoonful of coconut or sesame oil in your mouth for a few minutes each morning or night. This can help reduce plaque and harmful bacteria and the oils have proven anti-inflammatory properties. Be sure to follow the proper technique.
Salt water rinse
Dissolve two teaspoons of sea salt in a cup of warm water and drink the mixture in the morning and before bedtime. This is a very gentle way to restore pH balance in your mouth and prevent bacteria from further damaging your tooth layers. Your teeth will be stronger, less exposed, and the pain will be alleviated.
Clove oil is a longstanding natural remedy for painful teeth and gums. Soak a cotton swab in clove oil and press it to the affected area.
This may be the least favourite option, but it is definitely an effective one in healing sensitive teeth, because of garlic’s natural anaesthetic and antibacterial properties. Make your own tooth-desensitizing paste: crush one garlic clove and mix it with a spoonful of warm water and a bit of sea salt. Apply the paste to the affected area and rinse thoroughly after a few minutes. Don’t worry about the smell – chew on some parsley afterwards and the odour in your mouth will be lifted.
Apply all these techniques and remedies and it’s highly likely that you’ll have the problem of tooth sensitivity solved. However, if all fails (and you have really given it your all), ask your dentist about dental procedures aimed at reducing sensitivity, such as surgical gum grafts and fluoride gel or varnish. The last resort is a root canal, but the need for this treatment is actually very rare. Just stay persistent, alleviate pain with natural remedies, and take gentle care of your pearly whites.