Temperatures are warming up. Cooling down with cold beverages and foods is one way to beat the heat. But if you have sensitive teeth, one sip of an icy drink can send shockwaves through your body making you much more unhappy than the temperature outside. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Approximately 40 million adults in the United States experience tooth sensitivity, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). The good news is that tooth sensitivity can be managed — oftentimes without even having to see the dentist.
Why Are My Teeth Sensitive to Cold?
Most cold sensitivity occurs at or near the neck of the tooth or gumline. Often the part of the tooth that becomes sensitive is the dentin that is exposed due to the wearing of the outer protective layers of enamel and cementum. However, sensitivity also can result from a cavity, a lost or loose filling, or an exposed root surface. The majority of sufferers fall into the latter category.
What Causes Exposed Roots?
Just the sound of “exposed roots” probably makes you want to cringe. The crowns of our teeth are covered by enamel which is the hardest substance in the human body. Under the gumline, a layer called cementum protects the tooth’s root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin. Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum, these tubules allow cold foods and beverages to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. And when these nerves are are struck, you FEEL it.
What Can I Do About Sensitive Teeth?
The great news about cold sensitivity, is that there are ways to treat it over the counter. Here are five easy things to try:
- Change your toothbrush! — Try a softer bristled brush and while you’re being kinder to yourself, brush more gently.
- Avoid acidic foods. — Limit foods like carbonated drinks, coffee, citrus fruits, and even yogurt.
- Wear a mouthguard. — Teeth grinding can wear away tooth enamel leaving your teeth sensitive the next day. A mouthguard can help keep you from grinding.
- Switch toothpaste. — Select a toothpaste made specifically for sensitive teeth.
- Fluoridated mouthwash. — Use daily.
What If That’s Not Enough?
If you try these tips and find that you’re still getting a “zing” when you sip on something cold, there are dental procedures that we can discuss:
- Bonding, crowns or inlays. — These may fix a tooth flaw or decay that is causing sensitivity.
- Fluoride gel or varnish.
- Surgical gum graft. — This will protect the root and reduce sensitivity if the gum tissue has eroded from the root.
- Root canal. — This is a last-resort treatment for severe tooth sensitivity that has not been helped by other methods.
At Asheville Dental, we want you to enjoy the pleasures of every season. Call us for an appointment if you have any pain that gets in the way of your summertime fun.