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We all know the electrifying sensation when you have a sip of ice water, slurp hot soup or take a bite of a chocolate bar and there are shooting pains in your teeth. You have sensitive teeth, a warm label for what is a very uncomfortable and painful condition.

So why do your teeth respond that way to sweet, hot and/or cold beverages or foods, or occasionally even to slight pressure? Most dentists will have to do a thorough investigation to figure out exactly what’s causing your dental distress, since teeth can come to be sensitive for countless reasons. All of these can harm or destroy the tooth pulp which in turn can require more serious dental procedures to alleviate the pain and fix your teeth.

Sensitivity to temperature

Tooth sensitivity to temperature typically means that your teeth have received damage somehow. Occasionally it means one or more of your teeth are coming together too hard or too soon when you bite down. This could be because they’ve been moved slightly out of their normal positions, changing the pattern of how their surfaces meet when you bite down. These positional moves may be caused by behaviors such as sucking or biting on objects like straws or candy, or they happen when the structure of the bone of your jaw or teeth changes.

Usually the most common reason for tooth sensitivity to sweet foods and temperature is exposed dentin. Extremely painful when exposed, dentin can become visible for many reasons including abrasion, dental decay or receding gums. Regardless of what’s caused it, exposed nerves will make your teeth sensitive and painful.

Sensitivity to pressure

Your teeth can become sensitive to even minor pressure if they’ve been traumatized –for example, by unintentionally biting down on a seed while eating fruit. Quite often your teeth will be sensitive after they’ve had a dental cleaning, or received other procedures at the dental clinic.

Occasionally this type of tooth sensitivity can take a long period of time to heal. In some cases, individuals can cause tooth sensitivity by routinely clenching their jaws shut or grinding their teeth. This kind of pressure sensitivity isn’t anything to be concerned with if it only occurs once in a while and stops hurting after a short period of time. Your teeth just need some recovery time in order to mend from the trauma inflicted. If the sensitivity to pressure lasts a long time you should visit your dentist in case it’s damage such as a cracked, broken or decayed tooth.

If you’ve developed sensitivity in any of your teeth, you should see your dentist to determine the cause and make sure that it’s not anything serious.

Should you see your dentist?

  • If you have tooth or dental pain that lasts for more than an hour.
  • If your gums around a sensitive tooth are not the usual colour.
  • If your teeth are consistently sensitive to even the slightest pressure.
  • If you have a tooth that is consistently sensitive, this could mean that its pulp is dying or is infected.
  • Your tooth sensitivity doesn’t diminish after brushing with special desensitizing toothpaste for two weeks.

If your dental sensitivity is caused by something as simple as enamel abrasion or by normal gum recession, try these home remedies for relief.

Daily teeth brushing

Kind of a no brainer but sometimes we all forget when we’re busy. Dental plaque, the white sticky material that collects on your teeth, will produce an acid that will bother your teeth, particularly if your teeth are already sensitive. Daily preventative measures such as brushing your teeth at least twice daily, especially after meals and before going to bed, and daily flossing will help to prevent and eradicate plaque.

Use a soft bristled toothbrush

Quite often, people can cause sensitive teeth by brushing their teeth too hard or using a hard toothbrush, which can harm the protective enamel. When your gum lines recede (naturally as we age), the unprotected dentin becomes even weaker and more susceptible to hard toothbrushes and damage. Use a soft toothbrush and use only slight pressure when you’re brushing your teeth. Using less pressure will allow the bristles of the toothbrush to move freely and do clean your teeth better than when you’re pressing too hard.

Use a desensitizing toothpaste

Regrettably, extensive teeth sensitivity that’s caused by receding gum-lines or worn enamel can’t be resolved with fillings. As an alternative, use a special toothpaste that will help to desensitize your teeth, such as Sensodyne or Arm and Hammer Sensitive. These specially designed toothpastes are available on the shelves in your pharmacy or grocery store. They typically include an ingredient that will stop the pain at the roots and reduce your tooth sensitivity by covering up or filling the tiny holes in the tooth’s dentin.

Before going to bed at night put the desensitizing toothpaste on a Q Tip or your finger and apply it to your sensitive teeth. Leave on all night and within 14-21 days your teeth will start to feel better and less sensitive.

Use a fluoride rinse

Fluoride dental rinses are like regular mouth washes and are available without a dentist’s prescription at your drug or grocery store. They can help to decrease tooth sensitivity if used daily. For best results use it like a mouth wash – gargle it for one minute and then spit into the sink.

On occasion, individuals with really sensitive teeth require a stronger dental fluoride application than what’s available in your local stores. In these circumstances, dentists can put on a special topical gel that will help stop the pain.

Stop chewing tobacco

Chewing tobacco is a popular hobby for some people, especially many young men. They wrongly believe that it’s less dangerous to them than cigarettes. Although it doesn’t do the damage to their lungs like cigarettes it is still a major cause of mouth cancer and will damage your gums, causing recession which is a major contributor to gum disease and sensitivity.

Habits such as eating breath mints are healthier than any form of tobacco, but it can likewise cause tooth sensitivity and enamel abrasion.

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