Having sensitive teeth is an uncomfortable problem that is often the result of poor dental care. However, it can be avoided as well as treated with proper attention to diet, brushing and the assistance of a dentist.
The problem of exposure
Hot or cold foods and drinks - as well as any kind of pressure on the tooth or gums - could mean pain for someone with sensitive teeth. It can make a sip of ice water or hot coffee a dreaded experience and brushing teeth a trying task.
There are numerous reasons why a person might have sensitive teeth. One of the more common reasons has to do with worn tooth enamel and cementum, according to the American Dental Association. Enamel is a substance that forms a protective barrier around the crowns of teeth, while cementum protects the root of the tooth. If the enamel or cementum is worn down enough, a layer is exposed that allows stimulation of nerves and cells inside the tooth. Temperature fluctuations and other physical sensations such as acidic and sticky foods will then stimulate those nerves, causing pain and discomfort.
Another common cause is periodontal disease, which affects the gum and bone system that keeps teeth in place. The disease can wear away at gum tissue until it exposes the root surfaces of teeth. Other possible causes include cavities - tooth decay, basically - fractured teeth and worn fillings. The common problem with any of these conditions is that they all relate to the exposure of that inner, sensitive part of the tooth.
Potential causes of sensitive teeth
These problems are usually the result of poor dental care. Acidic foods, beverages and medications all wear away at enamel. Grinding your teeth can also strip away protective layers. Furthermore, not brushing and flossing allows enamel-wearing food and drink to exacerbate the problem and leave teeth prone to periodontal disease.
Some other things that result in sensitive teeth may be a surprise. Dry mouth, for example, is a common problem, according to The Washington Post that may increase tooth sensitivity. Saliva and water helps wash away acids and restores the protective layers of teeth. Alcohol, caffeinated drinks and hundreds of medications, however, dry out the mouth, leaving teeth vulnerable to further acid damage.
Improper dental care can also be a problem. Brushing your teeth too hard can wear down enamel and cause gums to recede. Additionally, brushing immediately after meals can worsen the damage caused by acidic foods because those protective layers have been worn down.
Ways to combat the problem
Fortunately, sensitive teeth are a problem that can be avoided, for the most part. You can still eat acidic foods, but your intake should be limited. If you are going to eat acidic foods, you can neutralize their effect by eating them with milk, cheese or water. Furthermore, rinsing with water immediately after eating meals helps dilute acids. The best time to brush is at least a half an hour after a meal, after saliva has had a chance to repair protective layers to teeth.
It is important to learn how to go easy on teeth. Jaw grinders can try relaxation techniques. Vigorous brushers should look into softer-bristled toothbrushes. Additionally, some toothpastes are less abrasive than others.
Dental appointments are an important way to keep track of tooth decay and gum disease. Regular cleanings, which can be paid for with dental plans if do not have dental coverage, help keep teeth strong and healthy. People who already have sensitive teeth, a dentist may recommend desensitizing toothpaste, fluoride gels or - if the problem is severe - dental procedures such as a root canal.
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