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Ballston Dental Arts
900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

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Understanding Sensitive Teeth

If you experience sharp pain or stinging when you eat certain foods such as citrus foods or juices or those high in acid, then you may have sensitive teeth. This condition is very prevalent and makes life miserable for many people. However, there’s no need to continue to suffer from sensitive teeth. With some minor lifestyle modifications and some help from your dentist, you can resume your active lifestyle and eat the foods you enjoy.

Sensitive teeth can stem from many causes, but the result of all of them is that the nerve is exposed and comes into contact with a foreign substance, and pain is the result. Sometimes, cold air can cause tooth pain, so some people avoid outdoor activities when the weather is frosty.

Usually, the nerve becomes exposed due to erosion of the tooth enamel, whether due to decay, gum disease, aggressive brushing habits, or gum disease. All of these causes are easily treatable, but they’re also easily avoidable. To determine the best treatment protocol, you need to consult with your Arlington dentist. If your nerves are exposed due to receding gums, then a gum graft may help eliminate your pain. Although this is usually a last resort, it is effective. Your dentist will also address the inflammation that’s affecting your gums, which is one of the hallmarks of gum disease.

Other, less invasive treatments include desensitizing toothpaste, which may require a prescription, but works by lessening the pain signals your nerves send to your brain. Desensitizing toothpaste differs from toothpaste for sensitive teeth because it protects the nerves from irritants that cause pain rather than using non-irritating substances. If you have sensitive teeth, the best option is to seek professional treatment because some serious underlying conditions may be causing your pain.

Why Do Sensitive Teeth Happen?

Many common causes of tooth pain are very treatable and very preventable. Although you can avoid the pain-inducing foods and beverages until your dental appointment, the pain can stem from serious issues, so you shouldn’t ignore it. Common causes of tooth sensitivity include:

  • Acidic foods such as citrus fruits, pickles, tomatoes, iced coffee, and very sweet beverages. If you avoid them, you can reduce your likelihood of pain.
  • Aggressive brushing habits can erode the enamel on your teeth and expose the nerves, especially if you’re using a hard-bristled toothbrush. Switch to a soft-bristled toothbrush and use gentle pressure when brushing.
  • Alcohol or other mouthwash ingredients can exacerbate tooth pain in sensitive teeth. Switch to a formulation specifically for sensitive teeth and preferably one that contains fluoride.
  • Bruxism, or tooth-grinding, can erode your tooth enamel and can also cause it to crack. A custom mouth guard from your dentist can alleviate this common problem. Don’t get your mouth guard from the local pharmacy, though, because it won’t fit well, it may fall out, and you probably won’t wear it because it won’t be very comfortable.
  • Cracked or chipped teeth can allow bacteria to enter the teeth and decay to start. If you notice a crack or chip in one or more of your teeth, make a dental appointment promptly. The sooner you treat it, the better the prognosis.
  • Recent dental procedures can cause your teeth to be overly sensitive, but it shouldn’t last more than a few days. If it does, then contact your dentist. You may have developed an infection.
  • Decay around an old filling can indicate that the filling has failed and needs to be replaced. This should be addressed without delay so that a cavity doesn’t develop. Replacing a failed filling is a common and simple dental procedure.
  • Tooth-whitening products can cause sensitivity in teeth, so if you’re using a tooth-whitening toothpaste or mouthwash, switch to a formula for sensitive teeth and make sure it contains fluoride. Don’t forego mouthwash, though, because it should be an integral part of your daily dental hygiene routine.
  • Gum disease, also called gingivitis, can cause your gums to recede from your teeth, leaving the nerves exposed. Gingivitis is a serious gum disease that shouldn’t be ignored. When treated early, it can be completely cured. However, if you ignore it and it develops into periodontal disease, the damage is irreversible, and you can lose all your teeth.

No matter the cause of your sensitive teeth, it can be treated and probably cured. Don’t delay in contacting your dentist for a solution. They have years of training and expertise that can help restore your dental health and eliminate the cause of your tooth pain.

How Can I Help My Sensitive Teeth?

It’s vital to understand the cause of your sensitive teeth so that the correct solution can be found. In the meantime, you can use the following tips to help alleviate your discomfort and enable you to enjoy life once again.

  • Make an appointment with your Arlington dentist to determine the cause of your sensitive teeth.
  • If your tooth sensitivity is due to receding gums, ask your dentist about a gum graft that will cover the sensitive roots and nerves.
  • Be dedicated and consistent with your oral hygiene regimen.
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and gentle pressure so that you don’t continue to damage your tooth enamel.
  • Avoid highly acidic foods and beverages such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, and orange juice.
  • Use dental products that contain fluoride to help strengthen your tooth enamel, and make sure they’re formulated for sensitive teeth.
  • Wear a nightguard to avoid further damaging your tooth enamel.
  • Try using desensitizing toothpaste, which is different than toothpaste for sensitive teeth. Desensitizing toothpaste may require a prescription, but it will help reduce the pain signals that reach your brain, so you’ll have less pain. In contrast, toothpaste for sensitive teeth contains substances that don’t aggravate your sensitive teeth.
  • Ask your dentist about the various available fluoride treatments. Fluoride can be applied topically to sensitive areas, over the entire surface of the teeth, or absorbed through the use of toothpaste and mouthwash that contain fluoride.

Making some simple changes to your dental habits and seeking the advice of your dentist can help you return to your lifestyle without pain and resume eating the foods that you like.

Sensitive teeth are both treatable and preventable, so if you have sensitive teeth, don’t procrastinate in seeking treatment. You can once again participate in the outdoor activities you like no matter the temperature, and you can resume eating your favorite foods like ice cream and citrus fruits. Keep practicing good oral hygiene habits to keep your teeth healthy. With proper care and maintenance, your teeth can last throughout your lifetime, and you won’t need artificial teeth or dental implants.

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900 N Taylor Street, Suite 150, Arlington, VA 22203

(703) 291-3111