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How to manage sensitive teeth

Did you know that thousands of Bahamians have sensitive teeth? This, unfortunately, means that many Bahamians experience sudden tooth pain when eating or drinking things that are cold, hot, or sweet. The good news is that most pain associated with sensitive teeth can be treated once the causative agent has been determined and removed. Chronic sensitive teeth affect your quality of life, resulting in the avoidance of foods or beverages that cause pain. If you are one of those persons, you probably understand this all too well.

If you are afflicted with sensitive teeth, one thing you probably want to know is how it can be stopped. You want to enjoy all your favorite foods and beverages, regardless of temperature or sugar content. While it is possible to stop sensitive teeth, how you go about it will depend on the cause of your sensitivity.

Because sensitive teeth can be caused by a number of things, the treatment varies depending on the cause. Therefore, it is essential to know what is causing the sensitivity before you can accurately treat it. The best way to determine the cause of sensitive teeth is to schedule an appointment with your local dentist, so they can perform an exam and get to the root of the problem.

Common causes of sensitive teeth

• Cavities in your teeth

• Gum disease (gingivitis, periodontitis)

• Exposed tooth root (gum recession)

• Defective or leaky fillings

• Worn tooth enamel (chemical erosion caused by gastric reflex)

• Broken or cracked teeth caused by injuries

• Tooth brush trauma (scrub brush approach and too much pressure)

• Citrus or acidic fruits

• Sugary drinks (sodas, fruit juices, milkshakes)

• Hard tooth brushes (everyone should use a soft bristled brush)

• Grinding or clenching of teeth (stress-related)

• Very abrasive toothpastes like baking soda, sand, charcoal, etc.

• Tooth trauma (caused by biting hard candy, ice and bottle caps, etc.)

As you can see from the list, many things can contribute to teeth sensitivity. The key factor is to be educated about your health and get the facts.

The most common complaint I get in my office is, “Doc, my teeth hurt when I get into the AC (air conditioning)!” or, “I cannot drink hot tea or eat fresh salad anymore!”

What you should know is that most persons at some time in their life will experience some sensitivity for one reason or other. It seems the older you are, the more prone you are to these challenges.

How to treat sensitive teeth

Your dentist should be fully equipped to treat and manage your sensitive teeth. Firstly, they will determine the precise cause, then render the appropriate treatment. Treatment is usually categorized into two areas – dental treatment by your dentist, or home remedies.

Dental treatment

• Dental fillings where there are cavities.

• Your exposed root, in the case of gum recession, may need to be covered with a filling or a gum graft.

• If you have gum disease, a deep cleaning is important.

• Application of potent fluoride gels or special desensitizing ointments in office.

• Antibacterial mouth rinses to keep your roots plaque-free.

• Performing a root canal treatment to make the offending tooth non-vital.

Home remedies

• Use of fluoride toothpaste, especially one designated for sensitive teeth. Allow the toothpaste to stay on after brushing for a few minutes then spit out. Don’t rinse with anything else for one hour afterwards.

• Fluoride oral rinse. Don’t rinse out with water afterwards for one hour.

• Prevent sensitivity by practicing good oral hygiene. You should be taught to brush and floss properly.

• Prevention – avoid damaging your teeth by opening bottle caps or biting ice or candy.

• Use a soft toothbrush. This is very important.

• Avoid highly acidic foods and extreme changes between very hot/cold drinks – too much temperature contrast.

• Avoid sugar, smoking, tobacco products and smoking marijuana (excessive use diminishes your saliva output making your teeth more vulnerable to cavities).

• Avoid teeth grinding. Consider getting a mouth guard.

You can avoid being a part of the thousands of Bahamians who suffer from sensitive teeth, if you get the facts and practice good oral hygiene. The single best behavioral approach to combat sensitive teeth is to use a soft brush, use good brushing technique, apply light pressure and see your friendly dentist. Remember, healthy teeth lead to a healthy life.

• Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry, a comprehensive family dental practice operating in New Providence and Grand Bahama. He is the first Bahamian specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He is also a certified Fastbraces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue. He can be reached at telephone (242) 325-5165 or kmajorcsd@gmail.com.

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