Curb tooth sensitivity

Summer is over and it’s time to celebrate the splendor of autumn and the bounty of the harvest. A feast of roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and wine may make your mouth water, but if you suffer from tooth sensitivity, the enjoyment may be short-lived.

Tooth sensitivity can be triggered by cold, hot, sweet or sour foods and drinks, or even by breathing cold air. Discomfort can range from a mild twinge to a sharp and sudden pain that can last for hours.

Causes of tooth sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity happens when your gums begin to recede or your tooth enamel begins to wear away, exposing the tooth’s microscopic underlying layer, called dentin. When the dentin’s tiny channels are exposed, a number of stimuli — including eating and drinking hot or cold foods or beverages — can send painful shooting sensations directly to the nerves of your teeth.

Our teeth’s natural defenses can be worn down in several ways, including:

Gum recession. This is a condition in which the protective tissue around the teeth is lost and pulls away towards the root. Receding gums can be caused by periodontal disease, bone loss and improper tooth brushing. While gums can recede with age, improper brushing technique can also contribute to the problem by pushing gums back until they no longer cover the teeth at the natural gum line. This can lead to dentin exposure and tooth sensitivity.

Vigorous brushing and/or grinding. Brushing too hard or grinding your teeth can wear down the enamel, especially when it is “soft”. Over time, the erosion of enamel can leave the dentin exposed — which leads to increased sensitivity.

Dietary acids. Enamel, which covers the tooth’s surface above the gum line, can be softened by acidic foods and drinks. Examples include pop, some alcoholic drinks, citrus fruits and drinks and pickled products. Once the acid softens the tooth’s protective covering, it can take a while for the enamel to harden again. This makes it more susceptible to further wear from brushing.

Dental treatments. Certain dental treatments can lead to temporary sensitivity such as bleaching or whitening, gum surgery, and scaling or polishing.

5 tips to soothe sensitive teeth

Here are some ways to prevent or minimize pain caused by tooth sensitivity:

1. Practice good dental hygiene. Prevent gum disease by practicing good dental hygiene, including brushing your teeth at least twice a day and daily flossing. Once your gums begin to recede, the tooth’s sensitive roots can be exposed.

2. Don’t chew on ice. Chomping on ice cubes can cause tiny fractures to form within your tooth.

3. Brush properly by making small, circular motions over the surface of your teeth. The key is to be gentle and not to scrub your teeth. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste that isn’t too abrasive.

4. When drinking cold beverages such as orange juice or pop, drink with a straw pointed away from your teeth to limit the amount of contact the liquid has with your teeth.

5. Use sensitivity toothpaste. Available over the counter, this toothpaste can help to provide a barrier to pain-causing sensations. Sensitivity toothpaste can provide relief while still providing the benefits of regular toothpaste, such as effective cleaning, fresh breath, cavity protection, and tartar build up and prevention. Note: Relief from this type of toothpaste generally takes time, with improvement usually seen within the first two weeks.


Did you know that pain caused by sensitive teeth, or “dentinal hypersensitivity”, is one of the most common dental complaints? Here are some other quick facts:

– 1 in every 5 adults suffers from sensitive teeth

– Sensitive teeth can start hurting as early as in your 20’s

– The teeth most commonly affected are “canines” and “premolars”

– Tooth sensitivity can cause improper brushing which may lead to a progression of problems including plaque buildup, gingivitis, periodontal disease and tooth loss

– Many people believe there is nothing that can be done to prevent or minimize discomfort from tooth sensitivity.