July is National Ice Cream Month! Who doesn’t love a cold treat on these hot summer days?
Well, maybe you if you suffer with cold-sensitive teeth. If the idea of Jeremiah’s Italian Ice sounds more like torture than a treat, read on for some tips for how to soothe your sensitivity so you can cool off in comfort this summer!
What Makes Teeth Sensitive?
Tooth sensitivity can stop you in your tracks.
Many factors can trigger sensitivity, including sudden temperature changes, pressure, or even acidic or sugary foods. Cold sensitivity is the most common complaint for people with sensitive teeth.
Tooth Sensitivity Gets on Your Nerves
Our teeth have nerve endings that provide important feedback. For example, nerves in and around our teeth let us know we’re applying the right amount of pressure to chew our food without damaging our enamel.
The mineral structure of our teeth has microscopic pores called tubules, which are filled with fluid. If that fluid moves suddenly—for example, if it gets hit with cold water that causes it to shrink—it can activate the nerves inside the tooth, causing pain.
We affectionately call a jolt of tooth sensitivity “zingers.”
Of course, there are other factors that can expose the nerves in your teeth to more stimulation than normal and cause considerable discomfort.
Get at the Root of Your Sensitive Teeth
Some of us have chronically sensitive teeth. However, sudden sensitivity can also be a sign of a problem.
If you suddenly develop sensitivity where you’ve never had it before, or your usually mild sensitivity suddenly becomes intense or your triggers change, it’s worth getting looked at.
Sensitivity Is How Teeth Tell You They’re Injured
Tooth sensitivity can be a sign of decay, cracks, fractures, chips, and other problems. Worn enamel can also make your teeth sensitive as the enamel becomes thinner.
The first step to eliminating sensitivity for good is to visit your dentist and be sure you have strong, stable dental health. That means getting any recommended treatments such as fillings.
Your Teeth Might Feel Sensitive If They’re Under Pressure
Sinus pressure can press on the nerves of your teeth, making them feel sensitive, and it can be intense. We’ve even had patients come it for emergency appointments, certain they needed root canal treatments because of sinus pressure!
Grinding and clenching can likewise lead to sensitivity as the nerves in your teeth may become irritated or inflamed. A night guard is a great way to reduce your clenching and grinding to protect your jaw joints and prevent worn enamel.
Many patients also notice their guard makes a major improvement in their sensitivity!
Recession is one of the most common causes for tooth sensitivity. Receding gums expose the roots of the teeth to the oral environment.
The root surface of a tooth has larger, more open tubules than the enamel as well as a thinner structure, meaning irritating materials can directly touch tiny nerve endings more easily if you have recession.
If you have receding gums, talk to your dentist. We may be able to recommend a number of interventions such as fillings to cover the exposed roots or gum grafting to restore the gum line to its proper position.
Products Can Cause Sensitivity
Other than problems with the teeth themselves, some products can also get your teeth talking.
Nine times out of ten, the first thing we’ll recommend if you have sensitive teeth is to switch your toothpaste. Whitening and tartar control toothpastes are highly abrasive and frequently cause sensitivity.
You may also experience temporary sensitivity if you get professional whitening, but it typically goes away once your whitening treatment is completed.
We Can Help!
Once we’ve eliminated the possibility that damage or decay is causing your tooth pain and ensured all your teeth are stable and healthy, there are two main methods for how to manage tooth sensitivity.
- Add mineral to block microtubules. By blocking up the pores in your teeth, we can reduce exposure to triggers like cold and acidic foods.
- Calm the nerves. When the nerves of your teeth are sensitive, they may have a very low threshold to input. That means they fire when they normally shouldn’t. By reducing the reactivity of the nerves, we can improve their threshold and decrease your sensitivity.
So how do we do that?
First and foremost, fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral supplement that strengthens enamel. It also helps to decrease sensitivity by providing a physical barrier to stimuli (blocking microtubules).
If you have sensitive teeth, a fluoride varnish at each cleaning appointment can make a huge difference.
While you’re at that next cleaning appointment, ask your hygienist for recommendations for what products could help your sensitivity. There are a number of great over-the-counter toothpastes that can help.
It may take some trial and error, as different toothpastes use different mechanisms to either cover the tubules or calm the nerves. Give each toothpaste at least two weeks to see if you notice a difference before trying something else.
We also have a number of prescription-strength anti-sensitivity toothpastes and mouthwashes! Your entire team at Lake Baldwin Dental wants you to enjoy all your favorite summer treats—including ice cream—in comfort. Don’t hesitate to ask us about your tooth sensitivity! Pass the rocky road, Orlando!