If your teeth hurt when you eat or drink something cold, hot, sweet or sour, or when you brush, or floss, you could have dentin hypersensitivity, commonly known as tooth sensitivity.

The pain of sensitive teeth can feel like a short, sharp twinge or stab. It can happen suddenly and often passes quickly. It's the kind of pain that can make you want to change what you eat or drink, or how you brush or floss your teeth. That's why its important to talk to your dentist or dental hygienist about properly treating your tooth sensitivity.

What causes tooth sensitivity?
Enamel and gums protect your teeth, but there are a number of different ways that this natural protection can weaken. Certain foods or drinks, and even brushing too hard, can be damaging.

  • Dietary acids - "Acidic" foods or drinks like pop, certain alcoholic beverages, citrus fruits and drinks, or pickled products can "soften" the hard enamel that covers the tooth surface. Once the acid "softens" the enamel and it takes a couple of hours for the enamel to harden again.
  • Toothwear - Brushing too hard or grinding your teeth can gradually remove the enamel, especially when its "soft". Over time, the protective enamel can wear down so much that nerve endings are exposed. The nerves can be irritated by cold or hot temperatures, sweet or sour foods, as well as brushing or flossing.
  • Gum Recession - Many people experience gum recession with aging, but brushing too hard can also affect your gums by pushing them back until they no longer cover the tooth at the natural gumline. This gum recession can be an important factor leading to dentin exposure and tooth sensitivity.
In addition to the sensitivity caused by toothwear and gum recession, there are some situations that can cause temporary sensitivity.
  • Bleaching or whitening
  • Gum surgery
  • Scaling or polishing
Bleaching is the most common cause of temporary sensitivity. It is reported that 75% of people who whiten their teeth experience some degree of discomfort.

What can you do about tooth sensitivity?
It's important to begin by removing the cause! Try to eliminate or at least reduce the things that lead to dentin exposure in the first place. Doing so will help insure treatment success.

Helpful tips
  • Reduce acids in your diet - carbonated soft drinks, wine, citrus fruits and juices, pickled food, yogurt, apples and apple juice.
  • Be aware that stomach acids resulting from frequent vomiting or eating disorders can also harm your teeth. If you suffer from these conditions, you should talk to both your doctor and dentist.
  • Brush your teeth gently. Use a soft or ultra soft-bristled toothbrush, and toothpaste that's not very abrasive. (It may be surprising to know that the cleanest teeth are often the most sensitive!)
  • Brush before meals or wait at least 30 minutes after eating. Don't brush your teeth right after eating or drinking acidic foods or beverages.
  • Maintain proper oral hygiene. Not brushing or flossing may help to avoid the pain of tooth sensitivity, but it can lead to other problems like cavities or gum disease.
Toothpaste for sensitive teeth helps relieve and prevent pain
Sensitivity toothpaste is recommended as the first-choice treatment for the pain of sensitive teeth. Used as your regular toothpaste, it provides effective relief while also offering all the benefits of regular toothpaste. The relief you get from sensitivity toothpaste builds over time, and you can expect improvement within the first two weeks. Over 90% of dentists and dental hygienists recommend Sensodyne toothpaste for the treatment of tooth sensitivity.

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