Prevent sensitive teeth & preserve your enamel—Here’s How!
If you have discomfort or pain in your teeth, especially when exposed to hot or cold temperatures, sugary foods, and acidic drinks, you know the discomfort of sensitive teeth. Tooth sensitivity is a common dental problem that is both preventable and treatable—and shouldn’t be ignored. Even a minor toothache can signal enamel erosion or other serious dental issues. Keep reading to learn about the difference between tooth sensitivity and toothaches, and how to find relief from each.
Why you should care about your tooth enamel.
Your enamel is a protective layer for the soft tissues and nerves inside your teeth, it is a built-in defense against cavities and decay. When enamel begins to erode and lose its minerals it is important to protect it. Continued erosion over time eventually destroys the enamel, leaving the sensitive dentin exposed and unprotected. The thing about enamel that makes it so precious is that we cannot repair it—when it’s gone, it’s gone. Enamel isn’t like skin or other body tissues—it contains no living cells and cannot be restored by the body after it is gone.
3 ways enamel damage occurs.
While some damage occurs during accidents and sudden traumas where the tooth becomes broken or chipped, the most common enamel damage happens gradually—often without you noticing.
- Abrasion is tooth wear caused by friction or mechanical forces from a foreign object. This can happen by brushing too vigorously or hard bristles, chewing nails or pens, or using teeth to open things.
- Erosion is the wearing away of the enamel caused by acids that dissolve the hard minerals of the enamel. The most common cause of erosion is dietary acid wear from foods and drinks that are sugary or acidic. It can also occur at a faster rate for people who have dry mouth or mask mouth.
- Attrition occurs when certain teeth repeatedly hit one another due to overbite, underbite, bruxism, or tooth grinding.
How to prevent tooth sensitivity & toothache.
To prevent tooth sensitivity, protect your enamel! Toothache or tooth pain is caused when the nerve root of a tooth is irritated. Teeth become sensitive when the protective enamel is damaged or eroding, leaving the inner dentin layer exposed. While heredity and genetics make some people more susceptible to enamel erosion, you can still make changes to prevent increased damage. Avoid things that cause enamel erosion and contribute to tooth sensitivity over time:
- Using certain whitening products with peroxide
- Frequent consumption of sugary or acidic sodas, juices, and other drinks
- Xerostomia, dry mouth, and mask mouth
- High-sugar and high-starch diets
- Acid reflux or gastrointestinal disorders
- Some medications, such as aspirin or antihistamines
- Habits and stress levels that influence tooth grinding or clenching
Is a toothache the same as tooth sensitivity?
Sometimes tooth sensitivity can lead to toothaches, however most toothaches are caused by injury or damage and require immediate attention. These can include:
- Tooth decay or cavities
- Tooth infection
- Injury, chips, or cracks
- loss of a tooth
If you’re unsure whether your toothache is related to acid-wear sensitivity or something more urgent such as an infection or decay, it’s always best to call your dentist for consultation—a toothache is often a sign that urgent dental care is needed!
What to do when you have a toothache.
If you have a toothache, first check to see if your symptoms qualify as a dental emergency. If a toothache lasts more than two days, see your dentist right away. While you wait for your appointment, try the following to ease your toothache:
- Hold an ice pack against your face at the spot of the sore tooth
- Eat soft foods
- Rinse gently and frequently with salt water (not for children)
- Over-the-counter pain medicine that works for you, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol
Things to avoid when you have a toothache:
- Avoid heat on your face and jaw (heating pad, hot water bottle, or any other source)
- Avoid foods with extreme hot or cold temperatures.
- Avoid sugary and acidic foods.
- Avoid smoking.
- Be careful with numbing gels and clove oil. Avoid putting any medication directly against the gums near an aching tooth because it may burn gum tissue and worsen the condition.
- Avoid chewing with the sore tooth.
Protect your enamel and prevent sensitive teeth.
Healthy gums and teeth are the best way to avoid toothache and sensitive teeth. Prevention is as simple as protecting the enamel. Understanding how acid, sugar, and excessive force speed up enamel erosion will help you take steps to minimize damage before it happens! Always consult your dentist about the dental care products you are using, including any whitening plans. As always, coming for regular dental exams and cleanings is the best way to keep your teeth healthy and strong. Contact us today to book your appointment!