For dentists, the question of tooth sensitivity is common amongst patients of all ages. The fact is, every patient is different, and every cause of tooth sensitivity is different. Tooth sensitivity can be caused by various factors, and many dentists have to rely on patient explanation regarding when and how the sensations manifest. Oftentimes, patients will explain that “it happens when I do…”.
In general, temperature changes, physical sensations, and even dental procedures can cause or perpetuate tooth sensitivity. As well, when tooth enamel is lost due to abrasion or injury, the exposed surface may become more sensitive. But there are things that are common to most – like sensitivity with acidic foods; hot or cold temperatures; and sensitivity during teeth whitening.
Teeth-whitening and tooth sensitivity
Because teeth-whitening is ultimately a chemical reaction, there may be patients who experience the treatment with some sensitivity. For dental professionals, there are scientific reasons that explain sensitivity, but again, since every patient is different, there is not much commonality.
The big question for dentists is how to moderate sensitivity (and even pain) while providing a tooth whitening treatment. Indeed, for some dentists, there may be a recommendation to avoid a whitening treatment, based solely on the discomfort of sensitivity (depending on the patient).
Today, patients can easily do an Internet search related to tooth sensitivity. And while many “hits” will be generated immediately, there will be a multitude of solutions and remedies offered. In the end, a patient may be more confused than not – it may simply not lead to a viable option.
Like anything medical or dental, it’s quite worthwhile to discuss options with a professional, in other words, a dentist who will be frank and upfront. Staying away from anything radical, there is always common advice to follow – everything from using soft toothbrushes to watching diet.
Taking better care of sensitive teeth
Sensitivity and discomfort are quite personal – tolerable for some, excruciating for others. For some patients, food and drink choices might be the solution. For others, it may require more.
- desensitizing toothpaste - containing compounds that block the transmission of sensations
- fluoride gel - strengthens tooth enamel, therefore reducing the transmission of sensations
- tooth bonding – may be used to correct some damage or decay that is triggering sensitivity
- avoid soda drinks – this is one of the top triggers for sensitive teeth (due to sugar and acid)
- no ice cream - ice cream and similar foods are extremely cold on the teeth and high in sugar
- less hot coffee – very hot food and/or drink can hurt teeth (as well as the sweetening agent)
- skip hard candy – besides the sugar, hard candy and the like can cause teeth to chip or break
- no sticky candy - toffee, licorice, and gummy bears stick between the teeth and remain there
- avoid citrus fruits – this family of fruits is highly acidic and can make teeth more sensitive
- resist ice – putting ice in drinks simply amplifies the cold (also a bad idea to be chewing ice)
Patients with extremely sensitive teeth and more severe symptoms should definitely visit the dentist. Short of providing good advice and clinical recommendations, there may be more serious health issues at hand (like a cavity or abscess) – and these will need professional treatment.