About 1 in 8 people have sensitive teeth, according to a study in the March 2013 issue of the Journal of American Dentistry. If you’ve chalked your sensitive teeth up to either bad luck or bad genetics, you might want to think again: There’s a good chance that your dental dilemmas are being triggered by improper brushing or too many sugary drinks.
There are steps you can take to ease and prevent tooth sensitivity. Here are five strategies that work.
Vigorous brushing won’t make your teeth any cleaner, but it can increase your risk for tooth sensitivity. That’s because too-tough brushing can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, exposing the nerve and setting you up for tooth pain.
Over-the-counter desensitizing toothpastes contain a compound that helps block the transmission of sensation from the tooth to the nerve, says Ferraz-Dougherty. Use it twice daily; you should notice less sensitivity within a few weeks.
The fluoride in over-the-counter fluoride mouthwashes can strengthen your teeth’s enamel layer, helping to [protect against] sensitivity,” says Ferraz-Dougherty, who recommends choosing an ADA-approved product. (Bonus: Fluoride also can protect against tooth decay and cavities, which can also cause sensitive teeth, says the ADA.) Just remember to rinse daily with the mouthwash after brushing your teeth.
Highly acidic foods and drinks wear away your teeth’s enamel, leaving you susceptible to tooth sensitivity and tooth decay, says Ferraz-Dougherty. Plus, they can also cause the gum line to recede, which exposes the nerves. Carbonated sodas, citrus fruit-based juices, and citrus fruits are all acidic. Instead of eating citrus fruits by themselves, try adding them to a meal: The other foods serve as a buffer, which helps lower the pH levels in your mouth. And be sure to wait at least 30 minutes after eating citrus fruits to brush your teeth. “The acid weakens tooth enamel, and brushing too soon may damage the enamel,” Ferraz-Dougherty says.
If you grind your teeth — a condition called bruxism — you can wear down the enamel, which could trigger sensitivity, says Ferraz-Dougherty. Since people commonly grind their teeth at night, talk to your dentist about being fitted for a mouth guard that you can wear while you sleep. Another suggestion: Because tooth grinding is often a sign of stress, you may also need to incorporate more de-stressing lifestyle changes into your day (think: exercising, meditation, and more), advises the ADA.
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