Do you find yourself avoiding your favorite treats and beverages due to tooth sensitivity? Is the thought of sipping an ice-cold drink or a hot cup of tea unbearable? Tooth sensitivity is no fun at all, as anyone who has experienced it can attest.
There are many possible causes for tooth sensitivity: thinning tooth enamel, wear from tooth- grinding, over-bleaching, cracked or chipped teeth, receding gums, or even periodontal disease. Whatever the cause, it’s best to consult with your dentist. They can help diagnose the cause of your sensitivity and, more importantly, find a solution. In the meantime, let’s take a closer look at the causes (and remedies) for tooth sensitivity:
Exposure to Acid Drinks
Most of the time, tooth sensitivity is due to the wearing away of the protective layer called enamel, most often due to regular consumption of acidic drinks. This enamel provides a barrier between nerve endings and the outside world. If the enamel is being worn down by exposure to acidic drinks, the nerves will be more sensitive to temperature changes. If you’re sipping on any of the following on a daily basis, your teeth are far more likely to suffer enamel damage from the high acid content:
- Any juice—especially lime, lemon, or cranberry juice – sports drinks
- energy drinks
- V8 and vegetable juices, especially those with tomato in it – sparkling water
Soda and juice are especially rough on enamel. The Ph of many sodas and citric juices (lemon, lime, pineapple, orange) is only a tiny step away from the Ph of stomach bile. If you’re drinking it throughout the day, your tooth enamel is going to be eroded at a rapid pace, not to mention the high sugar content that provides a breeding ground for cavity-causing bacteria!
Many patients understand that soda and juice are not the best choice for teeth, so they sip on sparkling water all day instead. Unfortunately, sparkling water isn’t necessarily the healthy choice many mistake it to be when it comes to tooth enamel. An article on today.com says, “Carbonated water gets its fizz from carbon dioxide. A chemical reaction in your mouth turns the CO2 into carbonic acid, not only giving the drink a tangy, zesty, refreshing bite, but also making it more acidic.” If you’re sipping on Lacroix or Perrier all day, your teeth will definitely take a toll over time. The same goes for lemon water—as refreshing as it is, it’s not doing your enamel any favors. The best choice to sip throughout the day? Plain water.
In addition, to help protect your enamel, be sure not to brush too hard. As webmd.com puts it, “Side-to-side brushing right at the gum line can make your enamel go away faster. You should use a soft-bristled brush and work at a 45-degree angle to your gum to keep enamel clean and strong.”. It’s also important not to brush your teeth immediately after consuming acidic foods and drinks— this can actually wear down your enamel faster. Wait at least an hour before brushing.
It’s fairly common for teeth to experience temporary sensitivity during or immediately after bleaching, but chronic sensitivity can occur if you are over-doing it with over-the-counter bleaching products. Consult with your dentist to see if this is the problem, and to find a solution that will keep your teeth pearly-white without over-bleaching.
Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth
Tooth grinding or clenching can happen during the day or at night, and many people do not even realize when they’re doing it. A dentist should be able to quickly tell if this is the culprit. There are many ways to reduce or prevent damage from grinding and clenching—from addressing the stress that’s causing you to clench in the first place to mouth guards for night use to muscle relaxers.
Cracked or Chipped Teeth
If there’s a crack or a chip in your tooth, this can certainly be the cause for tooth sensitivity. A regular checkup with your dentist should reveal any damaged teeth that need to be addressed.
Receding Gums and Periodontal Disease
As we age, our gums naturally recede which can expose our roots to outside stimulus. These roots don’t have the protective enamel that the rest of the tooth surface has, which can lead to pain and sensitivity. Your dentist will be able to discuss options with you if this is the case. However, receding gums can also be a sign of gum disease. One of the telltale signs of periodontal disease is tooth sensitivity, so do not ignore it. Untreated periodontal disease can have a very negative impact on our overall health.
Remember, there are many reasons why you may be experiencing tooth sensitivity. The first thing to take a look at is your daily habits when it comes to food and drink. Remember—plain water is best! If tooth sensitivity has become an issue, it’s time to schedule a visit with your dentist. To learn more, visit our home page. Dr. Mary Peebles-Turner serves patients in Broomfield, Colorado and the surrounding area.