Have you ever felt pain or discomfort after a bite of ice cream or a spoonful of hot soup? If so, you’re not alone. While pain caused by hot or cold foods could be a sign of a cavity, it’s also common in people who have sensitive teeth.
Tooth sensitivity, or “dentin hypersensitivity,” is exactly what it sounds like: pain or discomfort in the teeth as a response to certain stimuli, such as hot or cold temperatures.
It may be temporary or a chronic problem, and it can affect one tooth, several teeth, or all the teeth in a single individual. It can have a number of different causes, but most cases of sensitive teeth are easily treated with a change in your oral hygiene regimen.
What Are Symptoms of Sensitive Teeth?
People with sensitive teeth may experience pain or discomfort as a response to certain triggers. You may feel this pain at the roots of the affected teeth. The most common triggers include:
- hot foods and beverages
- cold foods and beverages
- cold air
- sweet foods and beverages
- acidic foods and beverages
- cold water, especially during routine dental cleanings
- brushing or flossing teeth
- alcohol-based mouth rinses
Your symptoms may come and go over time for no obvious reason. They may range from mild to intense.
What treatments can the dentist offer?
During an examination the dental team will talk to you about your symptoms. They will look at your teeth to find out what is causing the sensitivity and to find the best way of treating it. The dental team may treat the affected teeth with special ‘de-sensitising’ products to help relieve the symptoms. Fluoride gels, rinses or varnishes can be applied to sensitive teeth. These can be painted onto the teeth at regular appointments one or two weeks apart, to build up some protection. Sensitivity can take some time to settle, and you may need to have several appointments. If this still does not help, your dental team may seal or fill around the neck of the tooth, where the tooth and gum meet, to cover exposed dentine. In very serious cases it may be necessary to root-fill the tooth.
Is there anything I can do to treat sensitive teeth at home?
1. Desensitizing toothpaste
Desensitizing toothpaste contains compounds that help to shield nerve endings from irritants. The most active ingredient is potassium nitrate, a compound that blocks pain signals traveling from a nerve in your tooth to your brain.
After a few uses, your sensitivity will reduce. Dentists also recommend using a soft-bristle toothbrush and low-acid or fluoride mouthrinses.
2. Salt water rinse
Salt is an effective antiseptic and it can also help to reduce inflammation. To alleviate pain symptoms from sensitive teeth, gargle with a salt water rinse twice daily. To use a salt water rinse:
Add ½ to ¾ tsp of salt to a glass of lukewarm water and mix well.
Swish the solution in your mouth for up to 30 seconds.
Spit out the solution.
3. Hydrogen peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a mild antiseptic and disinfectant. It is commonly used to help sterilize cuts, burns and other wounds to prevent infection. You can also use peroxide as a mouthrinse to heal gums and prevent inflammation. To use hydrogen peroxide as a mouthrinse:
Add two caps of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to equal parts warm water.
Swish the solution in your mouth for up to 30 seconds.
Spit out the solution.
Rinse your mouth with water afterwards to remove any remaining hydrogen peroxide.
4. Honey and warm water
Honey is an antibacterial agent, and can be used for wound management Trusted Source. Honey can help to speed healing, and reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation.
To reduce pain from sensitive teeth, rinse your mouth with warm water and a spoonful of honey. This rinse will promote oral healing.
In addition to cooking, turmeric can be used as an anti-inflammatory treatment. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin known for its anti-inflammatory effects. It has been used in Ayurvedic treatments, in treatments for digestive orders, and as an agent to enhance wound healing.
For oral health and to alleviate pain from sensitive teeth, you can massage ground turmeric on the teeth. An alternative is to make a topical paste from 1 tsp turmeric, ½ tsp salt, and ½ tsp mustard oil. Apply this paste to the teeth and gums twice a day for pain relief.
6. Green tea
Green tea is another product known for its health benefits. It has been used in cancer prevention and cardiovascular health studies for its antioxidant effect and anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea can also help in oral health.
For sensitive teeth, use unsweetened green tea as a mouthwash twice a day to strengthen teeth and reduce inflammation.
Capsaicin is a compound found in chili peppers and many other hot peppers. It is what makes these peppers spicy. Capsaicin has analgesic properties, and has been used to treat burning mouth syndrome by reducing inflammation and pain.
For sensitive teeth, you can use capsaicin as a topical gel or through a mouthrinse. It may burn initially, but will eventually reduce pain symptoms after continued use.
8. Vanilla extract
Vanilla extract contains antiseptic and pain-relieving properties. It has been used to treat babies’ pain and discomfort when they begin teething.
To treat sensitive teeth, pour vanilla extract onto a cotton ball. Apply the cotton ball to your gums for a few minutes, and repeat the process as often as needed.
How can I prevent sensitive teeth?
Brush your teeth last thing at night and at least one other time during the day, with fluoride toothpaste containing at least 1350ppm (parts per million) of fluoride. Consider using toothpaste specially designed for sensitive teeth. Use small, circular movements with a soft-to medium-bristled
brush. Try to avoid brushing your teeth from side to side.
How to Whiten Sensitive Teeth?
Before you begin a whitening program, it’s important to deal with oral health problems that cause tooth sensitivity like gum disease or cavities. Thankfully, most dental health problems are treatable so you can begin a tooth whitening program once these issues have been resolved.
Visit your dentist and ask about tooth whitening for sensitive teeth. If your dentist recommends holding off whitening treatments until your other oral health issues are taken care of, be sure to follow their instructions to avoid causing any further damage to your teeth or increasing your sensitivity.
1. Professional Whitening Treatment
Professional teeth whitening done by a dentist might be the best option for those with sensitive teeth. While professional whitening is the most expensive option, it allows a dentist to monitor the process and ensure your teeth remain safe throughout. They can also use gels and desensitizers to help reduce sensitivity while they whiten your teeth. In-office whitening also typically is the most effective at removing stains and is long-lasting compared to other whitening options.
You can also look into purchasing a professional whitening kit from your dentist, which typically costs less than in-office whitening.
2. Porcelain or Composite-Resin Veneers
If your teeth are severely stained, or your dentist determines that your teeth cannot handle whitening, then veneers may be the next best option. While porcelain veneers require a healthy amount of tooth enamel to place, composite-resin veneers don’t require as much, which may be a better option for those that have sensitive teeth due to decreased enamel. Your dentist can help decide which veneers are right for you.
3. At-Home Whitening Options
At-home tooth whitening options are the most cost-effective way you can give your smile a boost. However, many of these options can easily irritate sensitive teeth and gums, especially when not used as directed.
When choosing between whitening toothpaste, gels, strips, rinses and over-the-counter whitening trays, be sure to read the labels for warnings about sensitivity. There are many whitening products that are specially formulated to work with sensitive teeth, so look for these choices when looking for an over-the-counter whitening treatment.
We love our patients and love to help them form healthy dental life that will last them a lifetime. For more information call us today to answer all of your questions so get an appointment today.