How to Deal With Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth are an extremely common problem among our adult patients.  While there are steps we can take to help you manage sensitive teeth, there are also things you can do at home when getting to the dentist is difficult.  During this unusual time of a global pandemic with business closures and social distancing, seeking dental treatment for sensitive teeth may not be the best option.

In this blog, we will advise you how to address sensitive teeth on your own until you can visit your dentist.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

Tooth sensitivity that is not caused by cavities or cracks is sensitivity that you can safely manage and treat at home.  If the cause is large cavities or cracked teeth, you will not experience any true relief until you receive the necessary treatment that the dental problem requires.

In the absence of cavities and cracks, the most common cause of sensitive teeth is exposure of the roots of teeth due to gum recession.  The roots of teeth do not have a protective enamel coating, so they “feel” sensations that they shouldn’t.  The dentin that makes up the roots of teeth is softer and more porous than enamel, allowing hot and cold stimuli to reach the nerve within the tooth.  In order to treat this type of sensitivity, you must strengthen the exposed dentin.

In some cases, people experience hyper-sensitive teeth due to irritation of the nerves within the teeth caused by heavy clenching and/or grinding of the teeth.  Sensitivity is also a side effect of certain teeth whitening products.

Toothpastes for Sensitive Teeth

In order to fight sensitivity, you must strengthen your enamel and dentin with products that work to re-mineralize hard tooth structure.  There are several ingredients in toothpaste that work to harden enamel and dentin, including fluoride, nanohydroxyapatite, potassium nitrate, ACP and arginine.  Some of these ingredients are only available in prescription-only toothpastes.  Others are for sale over-the-counter or online.

Here are some great toothpastes for fighting sensitivity.

  • Prevident 5000 – This prescription-only toothpaste contains a high concentration of fluoride and is safe for adult use only. It fights sensitivity by hardening dentin and enamel against attacks from bacteria and acid.  Ask your dentist about this toothpaste at your next visit if over-the-counter brands do not seem to relieve your sensitivity.
  • Boka or Apagard – These toothpaste brands both contain the remineralizing agent nanohydroxyapatite, or nHa. The mineral hydroxyapatite makes up the hard structure of teeth and bones.  Scientific research has proven that nano particles of hydroxyapatite actually absorb into enamel and dentin when applied topically (as in toothpaste).  You could call this ingredient “nature’s building blocks” for teeth.  Boka is made in the USA, and Apagard is a Japanese product.  Both are available online, and both are effective at fighting sensitive teeth.
  • Sensodyne – Sensodyne is the traditional toothpaste used to treat sensitivity. It contains an ingredient called potassium nitrate.  As opposed to other ingredients that work on the mineral matrix of enamel and dentin, potassium nitrate functions by clogging the tiny pores on exposed root surfaces.  In order to get relief from sensitivity with Sensodyne, you must commit to using it every time you brush for two weeks before you will notice an improvement in your symptoms.

Other Oral Care Products for Sensitive Teeth

Toothpaste isn’t the only way to get powerful anti-sensitivity ingredients onto your teeth.  Companies that manufacture oral care products have developed other ways to help you fight sensitivity.  The most noteworthy are these products:

  • MI Paste – This prescription-only paste contains Amorphous Calcium Phosphate, or ACP. This mineral also remineralizes enamel and dentin, strengthening and re-hardening weakened areas.  Unlike a toothpaste, this paste is applied to the teeth by simply smearing it onto the teeth.  You should apply it last thing before bed so that it stays in contact with tooth structure as long as possible.  Do not rinse your mouth or brush it away.  In fact, best results will be seen by applying this paste onto the teeth with custom-fitted mouth trays worn overnight.
  • Colgate Anywhere Anytime Sensitivity Relief Serum – This relatively new product from Colgate contains the active ingredient arginine. Arginine is an amino acid shown to remineralize enamel and dentin.  This serum comes in a small tube that can be carried with you throughout the day and applied to a sensitive tooth at any time (hence the name).
  • BasicBites – These chocolate flavored soft chews also contain arginine, and chewing one several times a day works to strengthen your teeth and fight sensitivity.

Other Weapons to Fight Sensitivity

Because some people experience sensitive teeth and do not have exposed roots or weak enamel, they may not feel relief from using products that remineralize the teeth.  When the cause of sensitivity is irritation of the nerve inside the teeth, you must eliminate the cause of that irritation.  The most common scenario is heavy teeth clenching and/or grinding at night.  The remedy for this is wearing a nightguard to separate the teeth and take the pressure off, removing that irritation and allowing the nerve to “calm down”.

You can try an over-the-counter mouthguard, but you should understand a few things first.  Because over-the-counter mouthguards must be a one-size-fits-all type of material, the material itself is usually soft and flexible.  This softness can cause some people to actually clench or grind with more force.  The squishiness of the material can make you want to squeeze into it.  Because it still separates the teeth, you may notice a change in the sensitivity.  You might notice an increase in muscle force, facial tension, headaches, etc….

The best remedy is a custom-fitted, hard acrylic nightguard made by your dentist.  These appliances will fit perfectly and last through several years of heavy clenching, protecting your teeth all the while.

More Questions about Sensitive Teeth?

Call your nearest Premier Dental of Ohio location today to schedule a consultation with one of our dentists.  Make sure to let your Premier Dentist know which products you have tried and which ones gave you relief.  We will then work with you on a plan for the best long-term sensitivity relief.