It’s time to take some sensitivity training – for your teeth

November 01, 2011

Woman biting into an apple

Sensitive teeth can take the joy out of your daily life. Eating favorite foods like ice cream or something hot and spicy can become very painful. If you have sensitive teeth, follow the advice listed below to reduce the pain. If you don't have sensitive teeth, knowing the causes listed below can help prevent the condition.

According to WebMD.com, the leading causes of sensitive teeth are:

Brushing your teeth too hard

Many of us believe the harder we scrub our teeth, the cleaner they become. The truth is, the harder you brush, the more damage you create. Brushing too hard can expose tooth roots, which leads to sensitivity. Using a hard-bristled toothbrush does the same type of damage. Brushing too hard may also wear away your tooth's enamel, exposing dentin. Your dentin contains holes that allow hot, cold, and sweet foods to stimulate nerves. Once dentin is exposed, sensitivity and pain increase.

Using too much mouthwash

Fresh breath is great. But you should consider using mouthwash less often to preserve your teeth. Some mouthwashes contain acids that may make sensitive teeth worse. We're not asking you to choose stinky breath, either. Next time you visit your dentist, ask him or her about neutral fluoride rinses.

Eating acidic foods

Harmful acids that can damage your teeth can be found in mouthwashes. But you can also find acids in tomatoes, citrus fruits, and fruit juices. Enjoying too many acid-rich foods and drinks could wear away the enamel that protects your teeth. We know many of these fruits, vegetables, and drinks have important health benefits. So don't give them up completely. You can neutralize the acids with a piece of cheese or glass of milk. Just make sure you eat or drink your dairy product after you eat acidic foods. Or, rinse with water after you eat them.

Tooth whiteners and some toothpastes

A bright smile isn't always the healthiest smile. Tooth whiteners and toothpastes with peroxide-based bleach can cause sensitive teeth. The sensitivity is usually temporary. It goes away once you stop using the whitening products. But you should talk to your dentist about the whitening products you're using.

Receding gums

The roots of your teeth contain thousands of tiny tubes. These tubes lead to the nerve centers of your teeth. Usually the roots of your teeth are protected under a cover of gum tissue. However, if you have gum disease, the gums may start pulling away from teeth. This condition exposes the ultra-sensitive root, which leads to pain. Receding gums require a dentist's help, so be sure to talk with your dentist about this.

Recent dental work

It may seem odd, but regular dental care can make teeth sensitive. Teeth cleanings, replacement crowns, tooth restorations, and root planing can lead to short-term tooth sensitivity. If you're worried about having sensitivity after a procedure, talk to your dentist.

Cracked teeth

Munching ice or biting into hard candies can lead to chipped or broken teeth. Once a tooth is cracked, the nerves inside may become irritated when you chew. A crack may also fill with germs, leading to inflammation and even more pain.

Grinding or clenching your teeth

Tooth enamel is the strongest material in your body. But even powerful enamel can't stand up to clenching or grinding your teeth. Many times, you may not even realize you're clenching or grinding. But over time, both of these habits can wear away tooth enamel. You can protect your enamel with mouth guards, lifestyle changes, and even diet adjustments.

Be good to your mouth

You don't have to deal with sensitive teeth alone. Talk to your dentist to discover exactly what's causing the problem. To strengthen your teeth, you may need to change your oral care routine. You can try switching to a soft-bristled toothbrush. Or, you can use a special toothpaste or mouth rinse made to help reduce sensitivity.

Live to age 100 with a healthy lifestyle including exercise, right food and staying stress free

Celebrate 100 birthdays – or more!

Live to 100 by eating well, exercising, and avoiding things that hurt your life expectancy.

Read live to 100
Basic causes of back pain and information on how to diagnose and treat symptoms for relief

Bent out of shape by back pain?

Find out what you need to know about common causes, diagnosis and treatment.

Read about back pain basics
Tips to choose a doctor while switching from a pediatrician when kids grow older

Choosing a doctor as your kids get older

What’s the right age for your child to outgrow the pediatrician? It depends.

Read about switching doctors