Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What to Do About Sensitive Teeth

Spring's right around the corner, the season of ice cream, shaved ice and serious dental pain for those with tooth sensitivity. It might sound like nothing of an ailment but, for those who suffer from it, it's more than just uncomfortable. It's painful. Plus, you have to constantly avoid your favorite foods or take to drinking white wine with a straw (which can be pretty embarrassing on a first date). There are a number of reasons teeth are, or become, sensitive, and your dentist will need to do some research to find out the "roots" behind your unique situation.

Sometimes it's trauma or dental disease that's too blame. Or maybe your bite is off, causing trauma to your teeth. The good news? That can often be rectified with a root canal or braces and you'll soon be enjoying your Slurpees pain-free. Other times tooth sensitivity comes and goes, and it's normal to be a little sensitive after a dental cleaning. However, if the sensitivity persists and you suspect decay or a crack, see your dentist pronto. The teeth may be out of alignment or "bruised," but the most common culprit is exposed dentin. That's the hardened tissue that's right below the enamel-and it has tiny nerve fibers. If it gets exposed, whether from decay or too aggressive of brushings, teeth get sensitive.

Choose the Right Products

There are a number of effective desensitizing toothpastes on the market. If the tooth enamel has become so worn that dental fillings aren't an option, toothpaste for sensitive folks is a good approach. These over the counter (OTC) products have ingredients that fill "tubules" in the dentin. It's kind of like caulk, and you simply rub the toothpaste on the sensitive area and spit (don't rinse). Your dentist can recommend the best brand for your needs.

Don't Forget the Fluoride

Fluoride rinses are something nearly everyone can benefit from, tooth sensitivity or not. It helps with decay and as an added benefit freshens your breath. If you live in a region where fluoride isn't added to the water, this can be especially beneficial. The OTC rinse recommended by many dentists is Act! since it's alcohol-free, but if your case is a little more severe, you may benefit from a stronger, prescription fluoride rinse.

Regular Checkups

An annual or bi-annual professional cleaning can work wonders when removing plaque. This gummy material leads to an acid which can be a real irritant for teeth-if your teeth are already naturally sensitive, this can exacerbate things. Additionally, brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. This is one regimen you need to stick to strongly.

Pick the Right Toothbrush

Most people choose a toothbrush based on looks or price, and don't replace it nearly often enough (every three months is recommended). Those with sensitive teeth can be greatly helped by opting for a soft-bristle toothbrush. Hard bristles can harm the enamel, and when gum lines recede (a natural aging process), the dentin becomes more vulnerable than ever. Use a light, steady pressure for optimal results.

Most importantly, see your dentist or orthodontist if you have any concerns and don't skip those regular checkups. Tooth sensitivity can be a sign of a more serious problem. And if you're shying away from at-home cleanings because of tooth pain, you're not just risking your oral health but also letting unattractive stains build up.

Jillynn Stevens, Ph.D. is a writer with a vast array of subject matter expertise. Along with publishing articles for large and small businesses, she researches, writes and publishes reports on various public policy issues. If your sensitive teeth as a result of misalignments, consider Smile Ranch Orthodontics in Lehi and Salt Lake City, Utah.
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