Tooth sensitivity can be very uncomfortable and disrupt daily life. What’s going on? While most of the nerves in our bodies are protected with layers of soft tissue, the nerves in our mouth can be exposed for various reasons. The first step is to figure out what’s causing the sensitivity.

Some of the common causes of food sensitivity involve brushing too hard, grinding your teeth, overusing tooth whitening treatments, and eating acidic or sugary foods. An expert general dentist may be able to provide tips on how to treat such a sensation. Below are simple changes you can make that can reverse or reduce the pangs of pain caused by tooth sensitivity.

Proper Dental Care

Brushing and flossing twice a day can keep the pain away and provide you with a bright, healthy smile. If you are forcefully brushing your teeth side to side along the gum line, you may be reducing the enamel. A soft-bristled brush held at a 45° angle to the gum line will maintain durable tooth enamel and reduce sensitivity.

Visit your dentist twice a year for a checkup, and quickly make an appointment when you have a problem. Ignoring your teeth can allow the problem to become serious.

Change Your Diet

Changing your diet can reduce tooth sensitivity caused by the erosion of the hard coating on the teeth and exposure of the nerves. Sticky candy, high sugar carbs, soda, and acidic foods attack the enamel. While saliva is a healthy way for your mouth to deal with bacteria and acid, sugar encourages an enzyme in saliva that causes erosion. Hard or sticky food or candy can cause tooth fractures. Fiber-rich vegetables and fruits, milk, cheese, and plain yogurt will help to moisten your mouth. Here are a few diet suggestions:

Items to Remove from Your Diet: Regular or diet soda, sticky candy, hard candy, sugar, carbs

Acidic Items to Reduce in Your Diet: Lemon juice, lime, grapes, apples, grapefruit, pineapples, corn oil, coffee

Healthy Alkaline Diet Choices: Most fresh vegetables and fruits, unsweetened milk and yogurt, soy, tofu and tempeh, beans and lentils, certain whole grains, green or black tea and herbal teas, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado

Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth

Teeth grinding and clenching your teeth wear away at the enamel. Sometimes, dealing with stress can help to stop this problem. Your dentist may also fit you for a customized mouthguard to wear at night. When the problem is severe, dental work may be performed to change the position of the teeth, or a muscle relaxant may be prescribed.

Take a Break from Teeth Whitening

Tooth whitening can be a great way to brighten your smile, but if you are experiencing tooth sensitivity, you may want to reconsider your whitening regimen. Take a break from using over-the-counter tooth whitening products. If you’re using a professional product from your dentist, be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

Do not whiten your teeth for longer than recommended. Try reducing the amount of product or cut back from daily use to every other day. Aleve or Advil can reduce symptoms if taken before applying a lightning treatment. Be sure to talk to your dentist about tooth sensitivity and limit your cold drinks or food while lightning. Your dentist may provide desensitizing products, and most sensitivity from tooth whitening only lasts 24 to 48 hours.

See a Dentist for Shrinking Gums

Individuals over the age of 40 may experience signs of gum reduction. Roots do not have an enamel to cover them and are very sensitive. Tooth sensitivity may occur as the gums pull away from certain teeth and uncover the root. Desensitizing toothpaste and brushing correctly with a soft-tipped brush can help, but visit your dentist for a checkup. Receding gums can also be a sign of gum disease, and it is essential to see a dentist early. In severe cases, a gum graft, which moves tissue from another area to cover the exposed root, may be needed.

Treating Gum Disease

The buildup of excess tartar and plaque can cause your gums to pull back. Advanced gum disease can destroy the bony structure, but gum disease can be caught early. Your dentist will need to deep clean your teeth and gums using a process called tooth planing or scaling. The dentist scrapes tartar and plaque from below the gum line. Medication or surgery may also be needed to fix the problem and improve sensitivity.

Repair a Cracked Tooth or Filling

A cracked tooth may cause extreme sensitivity to cold. If it’s a small crack that ends at the gum, the dentist can fix it. However, when you break a tooth, the crack can extend to the root. If the crack reaches below the gum line, a root canal may save the tooth or the tooth may need to be removed. See a dentist to have x-rays performed if you have a crack tooth or filling.

Tips on Reducing Teeth Sensitivity

Once you determine the problem or cause of tooth sensitivity, some things can be done from your end to ease pain, including:

  • A mouth guard to protect your teeth from grinding
  • Desensitizing paste from the dentist (not used to brush)
  • Sealants
  • Fillings to cover exposed roots
  • Sensitive toothpaste
  • Fluoride gel
  • Root canal